The open house took place at Town Hall, and gave an opportunity for the public to give their opinion on the fiscal plan. (Claire Palmer- Star Photo)

Town of Golden holds annual budget open house

The town held their budget open house on Tuesday, Jan. 21 to give residents of the town an opportunity to provide feedback on the 2020 budget.

While the budget open house is not usually a popular event, averaging anywhere between one to four people showing up, this year’s open house had eight people come to say their piece about the town’s funds.

“People tend to be pretty okay with what we’re doing,” said Jon Wilsgard, CAO for the Town of Golden. “If the general public has at least a modicum of sentiment that the municipality isn’t squandering their tax dollars and is doing what they’re supposed to do in the public service, then they’re ok.”

Primarily, those who came out to the open house were concerned about the Rec Plex and funding for fitness programming there. According to Wilsgard, about six of those who turned up were members of the winter walking program and aquafit program, who wanted more funding diverted into increasing programming for exercise.

“They were really fun,” said Wilsgard. “They were good hearted and jovial about their comments and it was fun to take down their wants and we certainly will take them into consideration.”

The town has also been getting feedback on their budget through more traditional avenues, such as email or letters. These tend to be more generic correspondence that concern themselves with the ongoings of town operations more than the actual fiscal budget and financial plan.

“It’s great to hear from them and we’ll definitely get back to them on those sort of things,” said Wilsgard. “But the financial plan is more just about revenues and expenses over five years.”

The budget is still yet to be finalized, and so there is still a chance to make concerns heard during the public hearing period, which concludes on Feb. 7. The town will take the ideas they hear and try their best to see if they can fit them into the budget. It’s an organic process, but a lot of the times the asks from residents aren’t too steep, and council can discuss having them included.

As well, the town is considering undertaking a public ascent process later this year, where they will ask permission from the public to borrow $5 million for an infrastructure project to revitalize the “horseshoe” area in the downtown, as Wilsgard describes it. The project would provide upgrades in the area from the IGA to the carwash to Mary’s Motel, and would improve on roads, pipes and landscaping, to name a few things.

Wilsgard identifies this project as a top priority for the town, and believes that they are in a good position to borrow now.

The town currently has money in their reserves for other projects, and borrowing the funds would help them undertake this project faster. As well, borrowing the funds means that the taxpayers who are enjoying the new downtown area are the ones whose tax money paid for the project. If the funds were to come from the reserves, tax money from people who may no longer live in Golden and would not be able to enjoy the project would have been used.

“It’s a lot of money, but in the scope of things, it’s not when you’re looking at infrastructure,” said Wilsgard.

The town would borrow through the regional district from the municipal finance authority, who will provide great rates. The town has been making a steep dent into their debt over the last few years, which puts them in a good position to borrow again, according to Wilsgard.

The borrow would be factored into the long term financial plan, and would become a part of the budget for the next few years. The referendum would take place sometime in 2020, with the project getting underway in 2021.

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