City looks to residents for input into next budget

·3 min read

The City of Grande Prairie is looking for feedback from its residents ahead of 2023 budget deliberations.

Residents can have their say by filling in a 10-15 minute survey, using a tool to share ideas on the city website.

“We get some great feedback,” said Danielle Whiteway, city chief financial officer.

“If there's something that somebody wants to know or doesn't understand, it's an opportunity for us to help them with that.”

She said the website tools give people an education on municipal budgeting.

Using an interactive budget calculator, two balancing act tools allow residents to learn how to budget the city’s capital and operating budgets.

“We're required to have a balanced budget, so when you make a change to one priority, you've got to make another change somewhere else, so you remain balanced,” said Whiteway.

She noted the tool can allow residents to put money where they believe it should go in the city’s budget, but they also need to find where the money would need to be taken from … or if a tax increase would be required.

“I do believe that these types of tools allow for people to have a better understanding, and they can even dive deep like within our website, there's the actual open budget data set, so they can go in and see more detailed budget information.”

Whiteway believes the online tools illustrate a bit of what goes into creating the city’s budget.

She said the financial services team does a lot of background work to prepare for the budget and continually listens to council for its direction.

“I think that one thing that maybe people don't realize is that our method of budgeting is priority-based budgeting.

“We need to tie the services that we provide, or the projects that we take on, to what council's priorities are, so we want to make sure that we're investing tax dollars into what council is prioritizing.”

The online engagement includes a Q&A section and a place for residents to share what they want in the community.

Ideas suggested by the community include off-leash dog park trails, outdoor gyms, curbside recycling and composting, man-made lakes and beaches, roadways that play music and an outdoor lazy river.

The city has plans to run in-person engagement sessions late this September, said Whiteway, with dates to be determined soon. She said the sessions would have members of council present as well as having department heads available, so residents can speak about what they believe is needed while also learning about the range of city services.

Whiteway said all of the engagement information is gathered and presented to council before budget deliberations in late October or early November.

She said she believes the engagement helps shape council's decisions while in budget deliberations.

“I think it adds a layer of value for the community just to be transparent and open about budget,” said Whiteway.

Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News