By Mike Williscraft
Tuesday night of this week was Grimsby’s first – and really its only public session – for input into the 2021 budget process.
Few residents would know that, because the was no proper public notice.
A call was made to NewsNow’s office last week to inquire about a public notice ad for the virtual budget discussion. The only problem was that inquiry was 48 hours after the paper’s deadline and the paper was printed and going out to homes when the call came in.
Yes, it was a holiday Monday, but for a public budget meeting – when council and Town Hall has had nothing but communications challenges on virtually all fronts, to blow this public notice simply gets added to the long list of inexcusable items which has taken place.
The budget process is huge, especially when you look back on the last two years of major tax increases – which led to a combined surplus of $1.4 million over those two years it should be noted.
That is important as repeated calls for fiscal restraint from councillors Reg Freake and Lianne Vardy, in particular, fell on deaf ears last year as five members of council very much controlled whatever they wanted to put through.
The Town shifting to the committee of the whole administrative model has been a disaster in many ways all on its own. The new budget process in that system has precious little opportunity for elected officials or the general public to toss in their cents, unlike the previous sub-committee system which had each department work through their own budgets separately, in the public eye, and with thorough debate.
Sadly, part of the debate when COTW was approved in January 2020 was reducing the hours elected officials spend in meetings. Somehow, this group thought it ok to give themselves a raise but cut the number of hours they invest in the community by half, or close to it.
How many taxpayers can stick it out to take in 9.5 hours of a council meeting? How many councillors can make a proper decision after sitting there until nearly 2 a.m.? For the good of the Town, bring back the old system. M.W.