Elmira Independent Editorial
It is extremely rare to find Woolwich Township council chambers filled on a meeting night.
When it is, it invariably has to do with something people don’t want — be it a biofuel plant or gravel pit, or even a new subdivision or unwanted extension of a street.
But, for the day-to-day governing of this municipality, there is little input from the electorate — at least, at council meetings.
Sure, there is plenty of criticism leveled at council at coffee shops and grocery stores, in the quiet of homes, or, rarely, in a letter to the editor.
But the criticism almost always comes after a decision has already been made, when it is quite likely too late to see a reversal.
In the coming weeks, however, township residents will soon have a chance to provide valuable input on the biggest decisions councillors will make in the next year.
We are talking about the municipal budget.
Millions of dollars are spent each and every year on a variety of projects, from new and improved roads to playground upgrades, to municipal buildings such as the Woolwich Memorial Centre.
Annually, councillors are expected to decide which items really need to get done this year, and which can wait — and just how much of a tax increase is reasonable and fair, given the needs.
These decisions can be fairly complex.
For instance, the township is, just like most of the municipalities in the province, facing an infrastructure deficit. This means our infrastructure is failing more quickly than we can afford to replace it. In the short-term, aging infrastructure can be ignored or postponed. In the long-term, this is definitely an issue the municipality needs to deal with.
But there are others. Playground upgrades, repairs to notoriously bad stretches of road, and the long-term need for more soccer fields are all issues the township must face, as well as how, exactly, it will be able to afford the numerous Ontario Municipal Board challenges the municipality is facing.
All of these issues are, in some way, tied to the budget.
And while councillors try to weigh the pros and cons of each tradeoff, these are the types of decisions fare better when there is more input.
Woolwich Township is planning two pre-consultation meetings this fall, in advance of the township’s first official budget meeting on Oct. 30, where the parameters for this year’s budget will be set.
This is the time for the public to get involved, to let councillors know what is a priority — and what is not – for 2013.
It’s a great opportunity for everyone to have their say, to give councillors some direction for the coming year. It’s a chance to provide input before, not after, the passing of the 2013 budget, and feel that your voice has made a difference.
While the dates for the meetings have yet to be set, we encourage residents to keep them in mind, and take advantage of this rare opportunity to give input on how your money is spent.