Council debates Town’s budget consultation process at meeting

A weak response to the Town’s annual budget consultation open house prompted some discussion from council on the process.

A less than tepid response to the Town of Golden’s annual budget consultation open house prompted some discussion from council on how the process might look in the future.

Coun. Bruce Fairley brought the topic to the forefront during the Feb. 2 council meeting.

“I think we need to re-think the budget consultation process and the enormous amount of energy and expenditure we put into a public consultation that people aren’t interested in,” Coun. Fairley said, adding that his most in-depth conversations at the Jan. 19 open house occurred with residents from Area A.

“I’m not sure that there were a dozen people there from the Town of Golden,” he said.

Under legislation, municipalities are given a broad requirement to undertake a public process when it comes to its annual financial plan.

“It doesn’t state the scope, the nature of that public process so it’s up to us to determine that,” said Town CAO Jon Wilsgard.

Large municipalities might spend tens of thousands of dollars a year, while Golden has stuck to the basics including newspaper advertising, social media engagements, invitations for public comment and an open house at the Civic Centre.

“That’s sort of the standard template out there,” Wilsgard said.

Annually, with limited feedback, it is difficult for Town staff to gage whether the public is simply apathetic or pleased with the existing financial plan and the direction of council.

“It’s always an interesting one for us, we always do the big head-scratch at the end. What did we do right? What did we do wrong? Did we do enough?” Wilsgard said.

Not including administrative time, the Town spent approximately $1000 on its open house this year, which includes the money spent on food and the rental of the Civic Centre.

“Certainly, I think we’ll give some thought as to how we can switch things up,” Wilsgard said.