Taxpayer Input to 2023 budget

It’s a pity more people don’t provide their opinion on the Town’s budget.  On Monday, 23 January, the results of the online budget survey will be presented at a public Council meeting.  From 15 December to 4 January 2023, only 70 citizens bothered to air their thoughts on the budget. (For comparison, 6,757 voted in the last election.) At the same meeting, other inputs will be accepted: 1) Written and Oral budget submissions and 2) requests for community grants.  The agenda lists only one written submission – from Hope Bergeron once again asking that Transit revert to scheduled service – my report on 24 January will provide what Oral submissions were made.  The report on the Survey and Hope’s letter are available in Resources below.

Budget Survey Summary

Few survey results showed strong preferences one way or the other although some were interesting.  More interesting were the comments that staff chose to present – since the comments were not consistently arguing single items, they don’t fit in a summary.  I recommend that you read them yourself (available in “Budget survey results” in Resources) and I presume Councillors will also read them even though they are simply one individual’s suggestion.

Survey Question Highlights
Note that numbers shown are number of responses out of 70. 

Question 1. Rank the level of importance of Town-provided Programs and Services
Responses to this question could be one of 5 levels from Very Important to Not important at all
Answers: Largest number responding Very important: Emergency Services (57)
Smallest number responding Very Important:  Economic Development and Venture 13 Innovation Centre (9)

Question 2. Provide additional feedback – 6 answers provided.

Question 3: Rank your level of satisfaction with the Town’s delivery of Programs and Services:
Responses to this question could be one of 5 levels from Very Satisfied to Very Dissatisfied
Answers: Largest number responding Very Satisfied: Library Services (27).
Smallest number responding Very Satisfied:  Tie: Planning, Transit, Community Grants and Services (2 each).
Largest number responding Neutral:  Tie: Animal control and Community Grants and Services (47 each).

Question 4. Provide additional feedback – 9 answers provided.

Question 5: Rank the issues you believe to be the most important issues facing the Town of Cobourg at the present time (full results provided here on this question).  #1 is most important issue and #10 least important.

  1. Safety and Crime Prevention
  2. Cost of Living
  3. Economy/Jobs/Economic issues
  4. Property Taxes
  5. Access to Housing/Accommodations
  6. Environmental Issues/Sustainability
  7. Governance and Transparency
  8. Quality of Transportation Infrastructure
  9. Community Emergency Preparedness
  10. Culture and Heritage Conservation

Question 6. Provide additional feedback – 17 answers provided.

Question 7: Communities across Ontario, including the Town of Cobourg face the ongoing task of replacing aging infrastructure. Would you be willing to pay an additional, dedicated tax levy if you knew that these funds would only be drawn upon for infrastructure upgrades?
Answers:  Yes: 20;     No: 10;     Need more information: 40.

Question 8: “Are there any other key considerations you would like staff to keep in mind during the financial planning process?”
Answers:  The survey report included 10 answers to this question.  They did not not focus on a single issue. The survey report is available below so you can read those 10 responses there plus the answers to questions 2, 4 and 6. With only 70 survey responses, it’s hard to know if these are truly representative.

I suggest that one takeaway from the survey is that there is a wide range of opinion as to taxpayer satisfaction and what is important.  My ranking of important issues would not be the same as Question 5 above.

It remains to be seen whether any of this will impact what Council decides when presented with the budget by staff over the next few days (25 and 26 January).  The Town plans to once again solicit feedback (on Capital projects) once the budget is decided as a draft but before it’s approved. Final budget approval is scheduled for February 27.

Resources

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26 Comments
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Rob
24 January 2023 9:01 am

Its a shame that unlike private business, the Municipality can simply raise taxes when revenues are tight and performance is poor. I implore this Council to hold departments accountable which would include a less than 1% increase across all areas with the exception of capex or safety that have a direct benefit on rate payers or were previously approved. No additional hiring, no additional expenditures, no make work projects, no third party consultants, 2-3% wages increase (max) …demand each Department head to identify cost savings in their respected areas. Performance is poor and times are challenging – everyone takes a haircut. Run it like a business…the well is dry.

Bryan
23 January 2023 12:55 pm

Cobourg residents should attend the staff budget presentations on Wednesday & Thursday (Jan 25/26) starting at 1pm.

I’m hopeful that the open forum (public questions & comments) will be allowed after each presentation segment rather than waiting until the meeting’s end.

This has been done before and it’s a good way of encouraging public participation

ben
Reply to  Bryan
24 January 2023 8:08 am

What are you going to say Bryan, where will you publish your remarks?

Bryan
Reply to  ben
24 January 2023 9:14 am

Ben,

It’s clear that you don/t know how open forum works.

I don’t know what I might say regarding the budget presentations because staff have not published their presentations in the agenda.

Any comments that I might have are made to Council. There is no onus on me to publish them. They will be available as part of the meeting’s video record, available for people to view after the meeting.
Members of the media may also choose to report on the open forum.

You should attend the meetings in person or online
and share your pearls of wisdom with Council.

Last edited 9 days ago by Bryan
ben
Reply to  Bryan
24 January 2023 1:24 pm

I don’t know what I might say regarding the budget presentations because staff have not published their presentations in the agenda.”

So you have no pearls of wisdom that you want to present, only offer suggestions from the presentations and obviously criticism of the Staff’s reports.

Where are your new ideas?

Bryan
Reply to  ben
24 January 2023 2:48 pm

Ben,
Where are yours?

As I noted before, you don’t seem to know how open forum works.
It is an opportunity for residents to ask questions about or comment on the material being considered by Council, not to introduce new ideas.

Get with the program Ben.

cornbread
23 January 2023 6:52 am

Sometimes I think that Council feels that Taxpayer Input is only their hard earned $ dollars.

John L. Hill
22 January 2023 10:23 am

These “surveys” are a complete waste of time. A proper sample survey is consistent with the demographics of the people surveyed and comes with a mathematical calculation demonstrating its accuracy. If these surveys are prepared by staff who have never taken a statistics course, it is misleading to council and to the public to say they demonstrate public opinion. On many of the polls I have seen, it is obvious that a particular answer is sought.
Instead of being critical that more people have not responded, we should congratulate the majority for not becoming involved in this hucksterism.

Barks and paws
Reply to  John L. Hill
22 January 2023 11:16 am

Correct. People fear criticism, demographics are absent, council documents are misleading.

Keith Oliver
22 January 2023 9:45 am

It’s important to understand that the most important means of influencing the decisions made by the government takes lace at election time, the individual platforms presented, and as a result those we elect.

Surveys, open house meetings, delegations before Council, reports from appointed commities are advisory only and not compulsory. Council decisions are rightly influenced by existing policy, staff input and their individual life experience.

My reading of the survey referred to here is that the voters are generally satisfied with the status quo.

Barks and paws
Reply to  Keith Oliver
22 January 2023 10:26 am

Old mayors all said that Keith. Cliché buddy.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Keith Oliver
22 January 2023 10:27 am

Yes, Keith, Council decisions are influenced by existing policy, staff input and their individual life experience. However, their primary duty is to implement what the people want rather than their personal priorities. It would be great if those elected could be depended upon to do as they promised at election time. Sadly, that is often not the case. Just read the previous Council’s promises at https://cobourgtaxpayers.ca/candidates-election-material/!

Keith Oliver
Reply to  Ken Strauss
22 January 2023 11:51 am

Ken

Be patient. This Council is new, just getting off the ground, has yet to establish priorities for its’ full term.

In addition rule by what a majority wantds is also referred to as the “tyranny of the majority”. Governments’ job is often to seek consensus, consider the needs of minorities, anticipate future needs that a majority may not even recognize since we all live-in-the moment.

Over 50 years ago we were all warned about climate change, the consequences of sprawl, but there was no popular support. Politicians did not listen to facts that the majority did not take seriously, did not want to spend money on.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Keith Oliver
22 January 2023 12:15 pm

Keith, the link that I provided was to the promises of the previous Council. The current electees still have almost four years to prove themselves to be equally untrustworthy.

The phrase “tyranny of the majority” is a disparaging term used by those who believe that their personal goals are more important than what the majority has chosen. I suspect that most Canadians believe that democratic choices should prevail rather than catering to the demands of special interests.

ben
Reply to  Ken Strauss
22 January 2023 12:50 pm

“The phrase “tyranny of the majority” is a disparaging term used by those who believe that their personal goals are more important than what the majority has chosen. I suspect that most Canadians believe that democratic choices should prevail rather than catering to the demands of special interests.ben’s emphasis!

So the losing side in democracies i.e the opposition is a “special interest” and shouldn’t be heard from until the next election where they either win or lose?

“Winner take all” is hardly the definition of a healthy democracy.

Last edited 11 days ago by ben
Ken Strauss
Reply to  ben
22 January 2023 1:43 pm

Ben, the losing side in a democratic election is, by definition, a minority. Losers call the system “unhealthy” rather than remaining silent..

ben
Reply to  Ken Strauss
23 January 2023 7:53 am

 Losers call the system “unhealthy” rather than remaining silent..”

Just what kind of Democracy do you want? Obviously a State where elections will occur periodically and the winner gets all the power and the losers have to keep quiet and accept everything the winners dole out.

That’s not democracy that’s “tyranny of the majority” and something you advocate. Some would call the supporters of that system “sycophants of a dictatorship!”

Ken Strauss
Reply to  ben
23 January 2023 8:53 am

There is no reason that the losers must remain silent and they seldom do. If there is any doubt read your negative comments.

Ben, it is unclear which recent election results you find distasteful but consider: Had your candidate won, would you still term the results “unhealthy” and “tyranny of the majority”?

ben
Reply to  Ken Strauss
23 January 2023 10:15 am

No but I would not dismiss the opposition as nobodies or ignore them or shutdown opposition procedures – that is dictatorial and downright rude. Doug Ford shows disdain to the Legislature almost everytime he appears there. Perfect example of “Winner takes all”

I am sure if my candidate/party won things would be done differently, I can prove they have in the past but do not want to prolong this discourse into ideological slagging.

Bryan
Reply to  Ken Strauss
23 January 2023 8:40 am

KS,

Losers a minority…..not by a long shot.
Ford won the prov election with a 16% “majority” (40% of the votes, which was 40% of the total eligible voters)

Wally Keeler
Reply to  ben
23 January 2023 11:50 am

So the losing side in democracies i.e the opposition is a “special interest” and shouldn’t be heard from

Exactly. The trucker demographic last year expressed their ‘special interest’ and the ruling class refused to hear them. Good governance right? A healthy democracy?

Lemon Cake
22 January 2023 8:20 am

The Engage Cobourg surveys are glitchy and hard to access – at least that was my experience when I tried to do the budget survey last year. Unfortunately I don’t bother anymore.

Sandpiper
Reply to  Lemon Cake
22 January 2023 9:36 am

I found the same with Access and log ins
I too have given up in the past on a survey or two

Ken Strauss
21 January 2023 3:30 pm

In addition to being mostly if not completely ignored, town survey’s frequently have seriously flawed questions. For example several of the issues in Question 5 are not town issues yet I was unable to advance to Question 6 without ranking all of the issues. There was no choice available for “not applicable”.

A number of comments are highlighted in the summary. I note that most advocate for walking, biking, GHG related issues. Do those listed represent all comments received or only those deemed worthy of reporting?

Last edited 12 days ago by Ken Strauss
Cobourg taxpayer
21 January 2023 1:35 pm

I have religiously filled out surveys, made delegations and attended town workshops and feel that citizen input is almost always ignored. Perhaps there is some law that says municipal government must obtain citizen input but there is no requirement to listen to or follow any suggestions. Much was during Hustwick’s reign. How often did boat lift and more slips in the west of the harbour raise its ugly head? Survey exhaustion has set in.

mrs bigley
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
23 January 2023 10:18 am

why bother respondng – as in the past – our opinions will fall on deaf ears – also the survey questions are not always applicable – l do have to comment on the parking costs in Cobourg – makes me head straight to Port Hope of Brighton – costs more reasonable or none at all – (another factor is worrying about my ovetime on the expensive meter- l noted in “Peterboro” there was a 20 minute forgiveness – should your meter time cease . Regarding meter costs in Cobourg it should be consistent – in all areas – first come first served – come on Cobourg – dont be so cheap