Blackfalds seeks budget input from residents

Blackfalds residents can try their hand at balancing the town’s budget books.

Blackfalds residents can try their hand at balancing the town’s budget books.

In a bid to boost local community participation, the town has launched an online tool that allows residents to propose budget tweaks.

Residents will be asked whether the town should spend more or less on a variety of municipal services and what impact any changes would have on tax bills.

The online budget will be available through September while the town’s departments are pulling together their draft budgets. Feedback gathered through the public survey will be considered when council gets down to its number crunching in October.

Blackfalds Mayor Melodie Stol said getting resident feedback on the budget has always been a challenge.

The online survey allows people to put in the value of their home to see what their current tax bill is and then fiddle with municipal spending to see how it affects their rates.

“It’s just a different way of engaging people,” said Stol.

The mayor said she’s not sure what to expect when the online survey closes at the end of the month. She hopes to get more feedback than last year when only two people showed up for a budget open house.

“What I’m hoping for this year is to see more people take this opportunity to participate,” she said. “(Council) does a better job when we’re getting constructive feedback during the course of a year or during the course of a term that we’re on council.

“We are really interested in what people have to say.”

Stol said the public might find the exercise eye-opening. After all, it’s human nature to under-estimate the costs of things sometimes.

In recent years, other communities have undertaken projects to encourage more public participation in the budget process.

City of Lacombe launched its Citizen Budget Survey last year and it returned this summer.

The online survey focused on services supported by property taxes such as emergency response, recreation, parks and culture and garbage collection and recycling.

Residents can rank their three most important issues facing the city.

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