Budget time for local government

Budget time for local government As the Mayor sees it

It is that time of the year again. Tax time for all of us and budget time for government at all levels.

Barriere council has had one budget meeting so far. Not one person from the public attended.

The next is scheduled for Monday March 12 at 7:15PM. All budget meetings are open to the public.  Once the budget has been discussed at Council there will be a public review.

The budget is important in that it will tell you what the Council plans to do over the next year. Property tax rates are set to cover these projects and expenditures. It is much more effective to tell Council what you view as important prior to the budget being set than after.

Take for example perhaps District staff feel another employee is needed for the water or department or perhaps the office. Staff makes a recommendation that the money for this new employee be included in the budget. Council then has to decide if the new employee is needed and if so how to pay them.

Since the budget has to be balanced the new employee’s wages or any other new expenditures must come from cutting services or from raising taxes.

None of these requests are secret. As a result a Barriere resident asked me why staff was asking for more employees. They asked if we had more parks, more waterworks, more paper to file or what exactly had happened that more employees were needed to handle the work.

Another person spoke up to ask just what the Council was doing to promote new businesses and jobs in Barriere.

He said that there was no way he wanted some big smelly, noisy industrial plant here in town. Four small businesses employing 6 or 8 people would be better than one resource based industry that employed 30 but could go burn down and not be rebuilt because the owners are not based here in Barriere. Local small companies make decisions based on more than just hard numbers.

Diversify the employment base and support the businesses that are here was the real solution he said. Get a small manufacturer to come here and I may put up some of my own money that way things get done now another person chimed in.

We would have an assortment of jobs to attract new people, retain the people that are here and Barriere would stay just like it is, a nice quiet safe place to live was the general consensus of all present.

One person did say that both of the major employers here were resource based companies. They felt the District should support their efforts. The whole group agreed. Once again though the idea of diversifying came up and he admitted change might not be a bad idea.

I explained that if I answered the questions while my answers would be based on the facts as given to me by staff and as I understood them the answers would be only my opinion. The best way to get answers is to come to the meetings and ask there. All of Council and the senior staff members are there to answer such questions.

The resident then stated that they detested meetings so why was it so important that they come an ask all of council and staff? I explained that at meetings the questions and answers get recorded in the minutes for future reference which is important to the democratic process. It removes the “he said she said” part of the equation when making decisions that have an effect on everyone in Barriere and the surrounding area.

I then said Council is not autonomous. They are required to act on the wishes of the majority of residents.

Like when I tried to explain who ran the town this brought on gales of laughter. One person said I should write comedy. It was my turn to laugh then.

I reminded them that whatever I say or do it is after all just my opinion. It was their turn to give theirs to those that need to hear.