CVRD considers new ways to engage the public during annual budget-building process. (File photo)

CVRD looks for ways to engage public in budget process

Public participation has been low in recent years

The Cowichan Valley Regional District is considering new approaches to gather public input during the annual budget-building process.

A staff report, prepared by communications and engagement manager Kris Schumacher, said that town-hall meetings held in previous years were mostly sparsely attended, as were public meetings held last year by each of the district’s eight commissions and committees to gather input into their specific budgets.

Schumacher said other local governments have attempted to engage residents with the use of online budgeting tools, as North Cowichan did with the Citizen Budget platform around its 2018 budget.

RELATED STORY: NORTH COWICHAN LOOKING FOR MORE PUBLIC INPUT

“Despite heavy public promotion of the tool, North Cowichan only received 213 participants, which represents just 0.9 per cent of residents,” he said in the report.

Schumacher pointed out that the CVRD operates 180 services, each with its own budget and myriad of operational and financial considerations.

“It is distinctly different from a municipality in that almost every one of its functions requires a voter-assented service with its own tax requisition,” he said.

“This is one of many reasons why it is difficult for the general public to understand the CVRD budget and provide informed input to assist the board in their decision-making process.”

RELATED STORY: CVRD SETS TAX INCREASE FOR 2019 AT 7.29 PER CENT

Considering the struggle to engage with the public during the annual budget-building process and solicit feedback, Schumacher said staff propose consideration of a number of new approaches.

One is to seek the public feedback much earlier in the 2020 budget process which would allow the public more time to become informed of budgetary changes and challenges to be addressed.

As well, Schumacher said tools like PlaceSpeak and the CVRD website can and have been used effectively to inform the public and collect feedback on a range of topics, so effort could be spent to make the 2020 budget even easier to navigate and interpret for residents from the comfort of their own homes, and on their own time.

“Reducing the number of public meetings would save resources and potentially see better attendance at the meetings that were held,” he said.

“This approach could include multiple meetings, but scheduled throughout the budget process rather than clustered together at one stage in the process.”

Schumacher said hosting public meetings to review only certain services, or groupings of services, like recreation and solid waste, may also see greater public participation.

“Consideration of the budget in its entirety can be seen as unwieldy for many, and some residents may be more willing to engage on topics that they feel strongly about or have a deeper knowledge of,” he said.

The CVRD’s corporate services committee asked Schumacher at its meeting on June 12 to summarize the options and bring back a report outlining them with the associated costs.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Island Health says York Road only location available for Wellness and Recovery Centre

Health Authority claims no other suitable site available

Survey to gauge interest in connecting Cowichan to Nanaimo by bus

People can fill out the survey until Oct. 16.

Cowichan Valley family overwhelmed with 14 Lab puppies

Litter may be one of the biggest ever

Citing stability, B.C. Premier calls snap election for Oct. 24

John Horgan meets with Lieutenant Governor to request vote

Cowichan Performing Arts Centre, Big Stick light up red to signal COVID devastation

“COVID-19 has been truly devastating to the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre”

B.C. reports 96 new COVID-19 cases, one hospital outbreak

61 people in hospital as summer ends with election

‘Unprecedented’ coalition demands end to B.C. salmon farms

First Nations, commercial fishermen among group calling for action on Cohen recommendations

Earthquake off coast of Washington recorded at 4.1 magnitude

The quake was recorded at a depth of 10 kilometres

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C.’s top doctor says she’s received abuse, death threats during COVID-19 response

Henry has become a national figure during her time leading B.C.’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

BC Liberals must change gears from election cynicism, focus on the issues: UBC professors

COVID-19 response and recovery is likely to dominate platforms

B.C. could be without a new leader for multiple weeks after Election Day: officials

More than 20K mail-in voting packages were requested within a day of B.C. election being called

Vancouver Island sailor stranded in U.S. hospital after suffering massive stroke at sea

Oak Bay man was attempting to circumnavigate the world solo

Most Read