Neepawa citizens voice their views on budget


By Eoin Devereux

The Neepawa Banner

A recent pre-budget consultation has allowed ratepayers in Neepawa to have their say on what the spending priorities should be for the 2015 municipal budget. About a dozen people attended the forum on Monday, Feb. 2, at the public library. 

Councillor and chair of the finance and administration committee Bill Stilwell said the date for this public dialogue was moved up on the calendar this year, in order to give people a chance to have a more direct impact on where their tax dollars are spent.

“The Municipal Act dictates that we have the budget hearing. [Previously] that happens just before we give the final reading to the budget. We can tweak things at that point but we can’t make big changes,” said Stilwell. “Hopefully, this is a positive change in the process. If it is, we’re prepared to keep doing it this way.”

The consultation involved ratepayers being split into smaller groups and discussing a set of five questions (inset) designed to help prioritize town spending. 

The answers from the five questions were varied, as projects such as the regional hospital, lagoon upgrades and infrastructure to service the C.N. property were all listed as long term priorities.

The majority of respondents also believe the town should not take out a debenture of $5 million dollars in available funds in order to pay for local projects, though some suggested the use of smaller portion of available debentures could aid with improvements to the lagoon or C.N. property.

Mayor Adrian de Groot said he’s very pleased with the public response from this endeavour.

“Councillor Stilwell and I sat down just after the [municipal] election last fall. We were both a little skeptical about whether this would work, but I think it is evident now that yes, it works and it will certainly help us to chart a path forward to growing our community,” said de Groot. “I think it’s definitely an important step for the town of Neepawa. Taking a look at the dialogue from the pre-budget consultations will not only start to help us prioritize our spending, it also stimulates an understanding to what the community needs and where we should be going.”

Stilwell added this will be helpful for council as they begin the budget deliberation process.

“As of tonight, council hasn’t studied the budget or deliberated on it yet. Town staff have been working on it for a long time. They’re ready to hand it off to us and we’ll have a meaningful discussion with them. But now, we also have a third way of looking at this. We have what staff brought forward, what council thinks and now some community feedback before we make the decisions,” said Stilwell.

The budget document for the town of Neepawa should be prepared by mid to late March.