Input invited on town budget

Duane Hicks

With administration and council poised to start work on the 2011 budget, local residents are urged to attend a public meeting on Monday, Sept. 27 to provide their thoughts on what the town should be spending its money on.
“I would like to take this time to tell the electorate that if there’s any questions or anything they have to add to the budget . . . come forward at that meeting and make that presentation,” Mayor Roy Avis said at Monday night’s regular council meeting.
Fort Frances CAO Mark McCaig noted the first public meeting of the budget process is the electorate’s opportunity to participate, adding too often people come forward with budget concerns after the fact.
He said people can bring forward capital items, like fixing potholes in the streets, as well as operational issues.
“A public meeting is a perfect opportunity for people that have concerns to bring them forward, and let your mayor and council know exactly how you feel about going forward,” McCaig said.
“It’s a great opportunity to get in at the ground floor and maybe affect the course of the budget deliberations.
“We always encourage people to come forward and bring these issues at the public meeting,” he added.
“We put great weight into people who come down here and make requests, make recommendations, ask questions [at] this time,” echoed Coun. Ken Perry.
“From then on, it goes into our hands,” he stressed. “Anybody that’s a ‘Johnny Come Lately,’ we’ll probably treat you that way.
“We have a public meeting for a reason. We want see people show up and make their requests,” Coun. Perry added.
The time of the meeting hasn’t yet been set, but it will coincide with the regular council meeting scheduled for that evening.
Meanwhile, council approved a report from treasurer Laurie Witherspoon at Monday’s meeting which outlined a budget timetable that aims to see the 2011 budget passed by early May.
“Early preparation and planning are critical components of an effective budget process,” Witherspoon wrote in her report.
“The budget timetable provides a logical process and ensures that all information is available when required,” she added, noting the 2011 budget timetable is based on timelines and experiences of previous years.
The timetable includes the public meeting on Sept. 27, after which time the four executive committees will take the information received and review it during the week of Oct. 4-8.
These same committees then will review the various division budgets during the week of Nov. 15-19.
Information then will be handed over to Witherspoon by Nov. 26, who, in turn, will consolidate the data into a draft operational and capital forecast.
This draft, along with other budget information, then will be reviewed repeatedly by town administration and the committee of the whole throughout December, January, February, and March before being brought up for ratification by council on April 11.
Over these months, the committee of the whole will meet every alternate week to regular council meetings to review the budget.
A second public meeting then will be held Monday, April 25, with the budget anticipated to be ready for passage May 9.