This post summarizes the discussion and decisions arising from the Special Council Meeting of January 16th related to a preliminary review of the 2012 budget. As usual there were very few people in attendance at both meetings but it was good to see the Citizen’s Finance Committee in attendance on Monday night with their preliminary budgets in hand.

Unfortunately there will be little information made available to the residents of Parry Sound concerning the meeting. The meeting wasn’t recorded and none of the local media were in attendance. And the meeting minutes posted on the web site list only the agenda items and a roll call of those in attendance.

There really needs to be some attention paid to recording the proceedings of council and retaining them for public viewing. Cogeco may be ‘free’ but it does not dependably record all public council meetings, and there does not appear to be any attempt by the Town to archive these video recordings. The decisions made by council can be significant and the meeting minutes capture little of the discussion and the subtleties of the decisions.

Discussion Notes and Decisions – Pre-Budget Meeting, January 16th

This was a three hour plus review of the pre-budget items for 2012. There was lots of interesting discussion that included staff and council, too much to summarize in this short posting. But it’s worth noting there is a $1.8 million gap between what has been requested and the projected town income, so there will need to be some tough decisions made on what is, and what is not, a priority.

As an aside it was interesting to see how council members reacted to the various line items in the budget. In some cases there was heated discussion over a line item costing only a couple of thousand dollars, while in other cases line items costing tens of thousands were passed over without a word. My sense is that some decisions were telegraphed by the nature of the discussion. The apparently trivial items that received what seemed to be too much attention probably were items that were going to be approved eventually and people were starting to establish their position on exactly how much should be spent for these line items. In the case of the much larger line items that received no comment (one councilor snoozed through a budget request he promotes) it was apparent that these items had no chance of eventual approval and were just ignored. And the really large budget items, like a new ladder truck at $1.3 million, seemed to receive little attention as there was perhaps a general sense that approval was inevitable and there was too little information to even try and shave the costs.

This is a meeting well worth attending. The next budget review will be February 16th at 6:00 PM in the TOPS council Chambers and some decisions will need to be made at that time. If you have things you would like to see council approve in the 2012 budget you need to reach out to council, or perhaps members of the Citizen’s Finance Committee.  There is no opportunity to participate in the discussions at the meetings although it is possible to make a deputation prior to the meeting on any item that will discussed. Copies of  the pre-budget are available to the public, contact town hall if you would like to see a copy.