Citizens can’t give worthwhile input on the City budget unless they can track how their money is spent, Kamloops Voters Society heard Sunday.
As the City gets set to field public input on its next budget, Frank Dwyer, a longtime citizen watchdog and society member, gave it a barely passing grade on transparency in terms of its annual reporting.
“You can’t begin to participate in the budget unless you know where the money has gone,” he said.
Dwyer, who has a background in business, has been to every City budget meeting in the past decade or more, yet he has an awful time trying to understand its financial report.
U.S. cities seem to be ahead of their Canadian counterparts when it comes to citizen-friendly reporting, said Dwyer, who showed a graphic example from Scottsdale, Ariz.
However, the City is showing signs of improvement with its willingness to engage taxpayers in the process of drafting the budget, he added. Public consultation meetings have been scheduled earlier in the process this year instead of dealing only with supplemental spending matters.
The society has been chipping away at the issue and members were involved in direct consultations last time.
It’s called participatory budgeting and it’s an international trend, said Chris Ortner.
“I’d like to think we had a hand in the announcement of early participation,” he said.
“Ordinary people decide how to allocate part of the budget,” Ortner noted. “It’s our money, right? So we should be able to participate.”
Public consultation is scheduled for Oct. 29, 7 p.m., at Interior Savings Centre and Nov. 4, 7 p.m., at a North Shore location yet to be determined.
“If there’s one good change for our city that I would support, above all, get more citizens involved,” Dwyer said. “The real challenge for the City and all of us is to better understand the finances so that we can all participate in the budget.”