Town staff, councillors, and Mayor Christina Benty were all on hand to answer any of the public’s questions during the 2014 Annual Budget Consultation Open House on Jan. 22.
There was information about upcoming Resort Municipality Initiative projects, capital infrastructure projects, the Civic Centre Rates Bylaw, and the 2014 Town of Golden Budget.
Residents could come and peruse the information, ask questions, and provide any feedback they had.
A lengthy discussion ensued between Bruce Fairley, a member of the Committee of Responsible Electorates (CORE), and members of Town staff and council regarding several items in this year’s budget.
He was particularly concerned about an increase of $180,000 in General Operations, much of which, staff explained will be flowing directly into reserves, but legally must appear in the budget.
Given that a staff position within the municipality has been cut (the corporate officer and chief administrative officer positions were combined, being filled by Jon Wilsgard), Fairley was expecting to see the savings from the salary in the budget. Those savings, however, have already been absorbed within other areas of the budget.
The discussion attracted a crowd of onlookers as tensions arose. Fairley was unsatisfied with the level of information, and spent more than an hour asking Town staff why certain financial figures were either missing or unexplained.
He was also displeased with the level of spending, particularly within the recreation budget and the Arena, which is in line with the CORE’s past criticisms of the municipality.
The budget has a few major changes this year, including a two per cent tax increase, the proceeds of which will go directly into an Asset Renewal Reserve, almost double what was contributed to the reserve last year.
There is also a new reserve targeted for dyke improvements in 2014, a new community co-ordinator staff position, being funded by the cancellation of the Grant in Aid program, and some major projects including dyke repairs near Golden Transfer, expected to cost $320,000 (80 per cent of which they are hoping to get from the province).
There is still time to provide feedback on the budget. The Town would like all submission by Jan. 30, and can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to look at the proposed budget package, it is available online at golden.ca.