CORNWALL, Ontario - Citizens of Cornwall must have a say in this year's budget process, one which will likely see significant cuts to City services. However, these discussions have to be based on informed discussions of real numbers and I feel that many residents will need to be shown what is really at stake this year.
The City of Cornwall is facing a perfect storm that has made budget season more turbulent than usual. Looking at a potential rise in residential property taxes of 4.11 percent, or $92 per household, councillors have raised serious questions about the City's immediate and long-term financial future, but there are no solid answers in sight.
Questions before council include whether to pass the tax burden onto the rate payers, offset it by "borrowing" from reserves or to make cuts to services and whether those cuts should be permanent or temporary.
At the last meeting of the Budget Committee, Councillor Bernadette Clement suggested that in depth consultations be held with the public on the budget and on cuts to service (which is the most likely outcome of this process).
As stated, I believe that this is something that must happen. If taxes are raised without input from the citizens who are paying them, then they will have every right to be upset and the same is true if cuts to services are to be made to offset that tax increase.
I know that when it comes to money that every single person in the City is interested in how their money spent on some level.
How much the general populace is interested in the workings of the budget is another matter.
The metric I use to measure public interest in a story is based on the feedback I get on Facebook. I take into account other sources of feedback as well, but instead of a letter or two to the editor I get every week, Facebook shows me hundreds of comments on stories that Seaway News publishes.
For example you, the readers, are very interested in the issue of possible school closures. Every story published on school closures gets commented on with criticism of the school board or possible solutions to the problem.
When it comes to the ongoing City budget meetings however, the response has been almost crickets. In fact, there has been almost no reaction whatsoever from the readership to the news about the steep residential tax increase this City is facing.
Again, I doubt the readership is uninterested so much as unsurprised. Whether it be at the federal, provincial or municipal level, the ongoing narrative has been about increasing expenses and rising taxes.