© TC MEDIA/Nancy MacPhee
Summerside’s finance director Rob Philpott goes over details of MRSB’s report compiled from information gathered at recent budget consultations.
City spent $13,496, before tax to host public input on this year's budget, including comedian, free food
The results of budget consultations were recently revealed to the committee of council, information that will be used in preparing the city’s fiscal plan for 2016.
But questions were raised on how much emphasis should be placed on the results, which, said one councillor, reflect the views of only 150 residents.
Coun. Gordie Whitlock said a more comprehensive survey should be done of city residents to see the areas in which they would like their tax dollars spent.
“To use this report to guide the budget deliberations, 150 people out of the entire city, if you did a poll using those same numbers it wouldn’t be very accurate.”
He suggested money spent on an entertainer hired for this year’s sessions and on “having coffee and doughnuts” would be better used having students conduct a door-to-door survey in each of the city’s eight wards.
The total cost to host the sessions was $13,496, before tax.
“Then you have a nice cross-section of information from the entire city, from every ward, get the demographics,” added Whitlock.
A detailed analysis of information gathered at two sessions — one attended by the general public and a second featuring invited community groups and businesses — was presented by the city’s finance director Rob Philpott.
“Certainly, having 150 attendees is a lot better than what we had in previous years,” said Philpott. “The intent of this whole process is we wanted to use it as one tool of many that we will use to provide information to you during the budget process.”
He added the report’s results aren’t “gospel” when it comes to preparing the budget.
“We certainly have found the exercise to be quite useful,” said Philpott, adding one of the intents of the process was to “strengthen community engagement.”
“With council’s blessing we certainly would like to continue it while looking at other tools to get the necessary information.”
A new approach was taken this year, with clicker polling technology used so those attending could answer pre-determined questions in real time.
The city also hired comedian Patrick Ledwell to perform at each session.
About 90 attended the business/non-profit organization session, while just 47 attended the public session.
There were suggestions from attendees on how to improve the process, including offering more answers to questions posed and more opportunity for discussion.
The complete report, says Philpott, will be available soon at city.summerside.pe.ca.
The city’s 2016 budget will be presented sometime in January.