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by Cecilia Nasmith, Northumberland Today - Tuesday, June 13, 2017

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP -  Disappointment with Hamilton Township’s 2017 budget process sent members of the Citizens Council of Hamilton Township ratepayers’ group to the drawing board to come up with something better.

At Tuesday afternoon’s committee-of-the-whole meeting, board member Faye McFarlane shared the group’s ideas on what would bring clarity and transparency to the process.

“We are not satisfied with the budget process that occurred in Hamilton Township in November and December of 2016,” McFarlane told councillors.

“We would like included in the 2018 budget process — and hopefully thereafter — three things.”

  • Sufficient disclosure of budget details to the taxpayers.
  • Sufficient opportunity for taxpayer input into the process.
  • A process that allows taxpayer input to be considered by council before the budget is finalized.

“By sufficient disclosure, we mean easy-to-read line-by-line spreadsheets,” she stated.

These documents will include:

  • The prior year’s budgeted and actual figures.
  • The current year’s budgeted and year-to-date actual figures.
  • The proposed budget for next year.

As well, McFarlane said the group requests copies of road plans from the previous, current and following year, plus the vehicles, equipment and services plan.

“This requested disclosure is necessary to council, staff and taxpayer for a number of reasons, including to compare predicted to actual expenditures and establish Hamilton Township spending priorities, to allow the opportunity to consider the reasonableness and necessity of proposed expenditures, as well as to provide awareness of road maintenance for taxpayers’ planning purposes and requests,” she listed.

“Sufficient disclosure is the only way taxpayers can be aware of how their limited and hard-earned tax dollars are spent,” McFarlane declared.

It also honours the values of openness and transparency set out in the township’s strategic plan.

She offered a time line that would accommodate their suggestions.

  • Grant and funding applications are to be submitted to council at a committee-of-the-whole meeting in advance of the preparation of the budget.
  • Council’s budget working papers are to be made available (either on-line or through printed copies at the township office) two weeks prior to a public meeting in September.
  • A mid-October public meeting, advertised in advance and recorded, will give taxpayers a forum to ask questions of council, the chief administrative officer, treasurer and department heads on their draft budget and planning disclosures.
  • A public recorded budget meeting in November would allow taxpayers the chance for input to council in sufficient time before the budget is determined.

“This time line meets with council’s desire to have the budget determined in December,” McFarlane added.

She concluded her address with a request for a motion at next Tuesday’s council meeting to implement the group’s requests for disclosure, input and process for the 2018 budget.

“The municipal budget process determines how much taxpayers pay, and where and how our taxpayer dollars are spent. It is the standard measure by which all municipal governments are judged, and it’s important to us.”

Council received the presentation without comment, and the next council meeting is June 20.

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