Saanich’s goal to better include the public in the financial planning process is moving ahead while recognizing a potential overlap with the soon-to-be-named citizens advisory governance review committee.
It was suggested by Coun. Susan Brice during the Oct. 26 council meeting the governance review committee could itself be targeting a public consultation process for Saanich’s financial plan at some point.
It coincides with a project Coun. Vic Derman initiated earlier this year, to find a way for the public to make meaningful comments on how Saanich spends money.
“For the public to [make] meaningful changes, it has to be earlier in the process. We want that to start in May or June of the previous year,” he said.
“I’ve looked at the budget process for years, and by the time we have it presented to council and ready for public opinion, it’s finished. You can make small changes but the basic bones are established.”
Staff prepared and delivered three reports on the matter over the course of the summer but instead of hiring a third-party consultant to explore solutions, council revisited the situation based on the new governance review committee.
“When I brought it forward we had no structure for the governance review,” said Derman, who now believes it is something that will be reviewed in depth by the governance review.
“But that doesn’t mean we can’t make meaningful changes at this point.”
In light of the governance review committee, council unanimously voted against a motion for a $26,700 third-party contract to have a contractor design a meaningful community engagement process for the financial plan.
Instead, Derman forwarded a new motion, which council approved, that directs staff to “request the Saanich Community Advisory Committee (SCAN) to provide feedback on increasing public involvement in the financial plan process, and that SCAN be further requested to obtain broad input from community associations and other interest groups.”
Derman said he’ll also spend time creating a report of ideas to canvas fairly broadly without it costing much money. The consensus among councillors continued to be the eventual creation of a website where residents could respond to a questionnaire or make suggestions into the financial plan process.