Do you care how city hall spends your money?
Maybe you do. But be honest here-do you care enough to drag yourself out of the house and go to a public meeting to talk about how your tax dollars are spent?
Or, are you the type of person who can be convinced to stop tweeting for a few minutes and spend time on the city's website to learn fun facts like how property tax is the city's primary source of revenue?
Congratulations if you replied with a big, "I absolutely would do all of the above and thanks for asking. I mean c'mon, it's our money, so why wouldn't I, journo boy? Give your head a shake."
Alright, alright-thank you for that.
But judging by previous turnouts over the years to meetings about the city's operating budget, you're among a minority of residents who give two cents-nice pun, eh-about how your elected officials spend $1.1 billion.
Every year, the city tries to get more people interested in the budget, groups such as ThinkCity does its best to do the same thing and then, well, life goes on.
But this year, the city says it's making a bigger push to get residents dissecting the dollars that pile up in that big safe hidden under Mayor Gregor Robertson's crate of Happy Planet juice at city hall.
Way back in March, council approved the 2012 operating budget. In doing so, the politicians admitted the city could do a better job at hearing from the public on the budget.
So council instructed city staff to examine what other cities were doing to get more people switched on to the whole trip of deciding what's in and what's out when it comes to spending tax dollars.
Well, here's what's to come: "Our new budgeting process will include a robust and strategic public consultation once every three years-following municipal elections-to discuss financial trends, strategic objectives, public values, relative importance of services and areas of concern for the public," says a city staff report going before council Wednesday. "The broad consultation will be designed next year for implementation in early 2015 (after the fall 2014 election)."
For now, residents can expect more advertising and promotion (likely some ads in this paper) directed at where to find information on the budget.
That includes "easy-to-read content" on the city's website, in-cluding a document titled Budget Outlook. Once online, a viewer can watch a short video explaining various ways a person can provide input on the budget.
Workshops will be held with representatives from 14 city advisory committees. Their job will include examining a public survey on the budget.
The city's Facebook page and Twitter accounts will also be used to ask about satisfaction with service levels and get a person's top three areas of concern.
I'm thinking affordable housing might be up there in terms of priorities for people-but then maybe those people who would like to comment on this have already moved to the suburbs or another province.
Don't take my word for it. The author of the city's 2013 Budget Outlook says this: "Property values in Vancouver have hit a national high in recent years and even with a possible market correction, housing affordability will remain a concern for the foreseeable future."
And even more good news: "Personal income is expected to grow only slightly; with mortgage rule changes impacting housing affordability, discretionary household income will continue to be under pressure."
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