The first meeting to review the District of Sechelt’s budget book for 2023 lasted just under six hours on Jan. 4, and the second meeting is scheduled for Jan. 11.
The annual budget process started with a public survey that began in July 2022 for four weeks — but only 14 people participated, David Douglas, the director of financial services, told the Committee of the Whole. With responses from less than one per cent of Sechelt’s population, the results “cannot be relied on to be a representation of the District of Sechelt taxpayers’ opinions,” Douglas’s report states.
“I don't think we can take any broad direction from [such] a small sample size,” Mayor John Henderson commented.
“This will be the third year we’ve had this level of consultation, and we still hear from the public that we didn’t reach them,” Douglas said.
Dates to know
The next public participation opportunities for the 2023 budget will be held virtually via Zoom on Jan. 10 at noon and 7 p.m. On Jan. 11, council deliberation and discussion is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Public information sessions are scheduled for Jan. 24 at noon and 7 p.m. The next day, Jan. 25, the 2023-2027 Financial Plan will be presented to the committee for final review in a meeting open to the public. The five-year plan must be adopted by May 15 before the adoption of the annual property tax bylaw.
Although the survey response was small, Douglas pointed out the issues the respondents identified as needing the greatest attention from local government: water and spending, followed by roads and traffic, took up the top three.
During the Jan. 4 and 11 meetings, Douglas said staff are not necessarily looking for recommendations, but for council members to understand the information presented and ask for more information as they need it.