The Town of Hay River hosted public consultations on Dec. 4 for its 2020 budgets, but just one community resident showed up.
“Part of our strategic plan is to be more transparent, and this was part of it,” said Mayor Kandis Jameson after the meeting.
Jameson admitted to being disappointed by the turnout.
“Because it would be nice to have some input from the public to see what they would like to see out there before we pass the budget,” she said.
Council is scheduled to vote on the operations and maintenance budget, and the capital budget, on Dec. 11.
Jameson said she expected to see more people at the consultations, but added that, on the flip side, it hopefully means people are confident in the direction of the town.
“Usually if people aren’t happy, they’re sitting there (at a meeting),” she said.
Jameson said she is confident in the direction of the town, but added it’s unfortunate a two-per-cent tax increase had to be included in the proposed budget.
“When you’re trying to keep pace with inflation, it’s a minimum,” she said.
The lone resident at the consultations was Vince McKay, a firefighter and former town councillor.
McKay requested that council make a renewed effort to solve a long-running issue where the town pays for and provides highway rescue, which is a GNWT responsibility.
“The Government of the Northwest Territories is kind of sitting back there laughing and doing another study so that they can delay sending money to this town,” he said.
Meanwhile, McKay noted the GNWT has contracts in the Inuvik and Tlicho regions for similar services.
If the GNWT properly funds Hay River to provide the service, he said it could mean millions of dollars for the town.
“At the end of the day, it’s theirs,” he said. “If we really wanted to save a couple of hundred thousand off your budget and take the risk and the heat, you could just cut it right out and let them figure it out.”
Jameson said consultations on budgets will continue in future years.
“People need an opportunity to speak about what we’re doing and what we’re planning to do, both with O&M and with capital,” she said.
At a Dec. 2 council meeting, Deputy Mayor Robert Bouchard – participating by telephone – suggested that more time was needed between when the budget is publically discussed by council and public consultations.
Council heard a presentation from town administration on the proposed budget on Dec. 2.
“I know there are a lot of numbers to move and there’s a lot of work to be done there, but it would be nice to have a little bit of gap between the time that we move it and the public meeting,” said Bouchard, suggesting two weeks would be more appropriate.
The last public consultation prior to a town budget was in 2014.