How To Get People Excited About Budget Time. Well… Maybe Not Excited, But At Least Engaged!

In just 24 hours the Facebook page Remove Parking Meters in Nelson BC has generated more than 100 likes. I think it’s safe to say that none of us enjoys scrambling for quarters to plug into a hungry parking meter, BUT the City of Nelson earns $680,000 every year from parking meter revenues.

Eliminate this revenue stream and we will most likely have to either make cuts to our operating budget, or raise taxes to cover the shortfall. $680K is no small amount, so before I could agree to supporting anything like that, I would want to hear some great ideas for addressing the shortfall. (I’m all ears.)

What’s interesting about this situation, is it provides a great opportunity to talk about how the City of Nelson communicates with citizens with regards to our budget. I attended one of the budget presentations in February at the library. It looked like there were maybe 20 people there who weren’t city staff or on council. Maybe.

Budgets are dull things. BUT ensuring we have balanced our books is crucial to how we decide what services are provided, and what new projects we can take on in the future. It’s equally important that we ensure that taxpayers have an opportunity to engage in this process and understand how their money is being spent.

I think we can do a better job of involving people in this process by using interactive online tools like Citizen Budget to engage with the public on top of the current consultation process.

This tool puts citizens in the shoes of city council and staff who must make decisions on spending and services. If you want to pay less taxes or cut out revenue generators (like parking meters), but still balance the books, you have to make cuts to services. Likewise if you want to increase services, you’ll can see how much more revenue you must generate to pay for them.

It looks like a great way to help set priorities, and increase transparency on spending. Check out the demo. Would you use something like this?

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