Lisa Helps is the mayor of the City of Victoria.

LISA HELPS: Citizens’ input needed on Victoria city budget

Various departments’ operations make up annual document

City council is about to make the most important decision it makes each year, and we’d like your help.

How does the annual budgeting process work? At the beginning of the term council set objectives for the City through the 2015-18 Strategic Plan. Each year at budget time council reviews the strategic plan and allocates funding through the budget to achieve its objectives, including Create Prosperity Through Economic Development, Make Victoria More Affordable, Take Climate Action and Prepare for Emergencies, to name just a few.

Council is in the process of diving in deeply to the 1,116-page draft budget document. We face a challenging task: how can we continue to provide the broad scope of approximately 200 services and over 200 capital infrastructure projects that our citizens value, while meeting the demands of citizens and businesses for increased or new services? And how can we do this in a way that keeps people’s ability to pay their taxes top of mind?

This is where we’re looking for your input. We know our residents are busy, so we want to make it easy for you. Our website victoria.ca/budget will soon have all the information you need to participate.

There’ll be a budget survey so you can share your priorities with us. There’s a property tax calculator so you can see what the impact of any proposed increase would be on your particular property. There’s a budget snapshot for each neighbourhood so you can learn more about work proposed to be done in your area.

Most importantly, there’s a town hall meeting on Thursday, Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. at City Hall. Come in person if you can; if you can’t, you can call in, email, tweet or Facebook with your questions and comments. We will use the public input gathered to inform council’s decision on the budget in early January 2018.

Council understands, like you do, that the City budgeting process is about services – ensuring your money is spent prudently on the priorities of our community. But the bigger picture, or perhaps the guiding principle of council in making budget decisions, is to make sure we’re spending your valuable money in a way that enhances individual and collective well-being and meets the demands of our growing and changing community.

As I’ve shared in my last few articles, and based on census data, our community is changing. Young families with kids need playgrounds, green spaces and downtown public spaces that are welcoming for everyone. Seniors need gathering places and programs to keep them connected with each other and with the community. Young people need to be engaged, have their voices heard and the city shaped around their needs, and all of us need to focus on the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century, including building a resilient low-carbon city for the future.

Lisa Helps is the mayor of the City of Victoria.

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