Penetanguishene invites taxpayers to 'Let’s Talk Budget' event

Residents who were upset that they didn’t have a say in the Penetanguishene 2023 municipal budget discussion will be getting their chance on Thursday.

Happening at the Brian Orser Hall on the upper floor of the Penetanguishene Memorial Community Centre at 61 Maria St., the hour-long event will take place starting at 3 p.m.

Town staff encourage residents to share their suggestions and priorities on the financial issues for the 2023 draft budget, and will be provided an opportunity to engage town representatives in conversation and questions.

The event was set up as a response from public criticism last month when, during the second 2023 draft budget discussions, staff revealed that only 75 of the town’s 7,725 eligible voters had participated in the annual public survey to provide input on the future taxation of the community.

Since then, Mayor Doug Rawson had made a point to bring up the Let’s Talk Budget event in each council meeting, adding with his usual touch of humour that staff and council be instructed to bring first 10, then 11, and incrementally more people per person to the upcoming discussion.

“We look forward to everybody coming out to the arena to talk about our budget,” said Rawson at a recent committee of the whole meeting. “Please participate in the budget consultation; the treasurer isn’t here this evening but she has requested,” he added jokingly, “that every member of council have 12 people show up so please make sure that you send – is it 13 now? Sorry, I thought we were at 12.”

One resident attending the meeting raised concern at a large number of residents filling the event and not having a chance to engage given that the time-frame was only an hour long, but was assured by CAO Jeff Lees that such would not be the case.

“If we have too many people that come, we will certainly make that work and that’s going to be a great problem for us to have,” said Lees.

“Staff looked at this request that came from the mayor and council in terms of adding additional consultations. Given the time-frame that we were up against, we did the best that we could in terms of scheduling it in a timely manner, as well as scheduling it in a manner that we thought would be effective. The time that it has been scheduled for is 3 until 4, so if you come at 4 you’re going to be slightly late.”

Rawson was quick to add: “I’m sure if we have that number of people, and I hope we do, I know Jeff and the team aren’t running for the door at 4. The dialogue continues and if it goes until 4:30, it’ll continue. It’s not a hard stop, but we had to put some parameters and we tried to make it work the best we could.”

As added incentive for the event, residents who attend will be given an opportunity to win a Penetanguishene swag bundle from the town in appreciation for showing community engagement.

Information on the draft 2023 budget, including detailed reports and community engagement, can be found on the Town of Penetanguishene budget web page.

Meetings of Penetanguishene council are held on the second Wednesday of each month, and can be watched live on Rogers TV cable 53, or on the Rogers TV website.

Archives of council meetings are located on the Town of Penetanguishene YouTube channel.

Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca