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Budget consultation attracts little interest from public

Dozens of seats in the cafeteria at Vellore Village Community Centre were empty at Monday’s public budget consultation, leaving the city’s budget chief concerned.

The Woodbridge forum, the first of three in Vaughan’s 2008 draft budget process, was an opportunity for the public to interact with councillors and city staff on how the budget should be crafted.

To the dismay of Mayor Linda Jackson and budget committee chair Bernie DiVona, staff and council members far outnumbered the public.

“I’m disappointed with the turnout,” Ward 3 councillor DiVona said after the meeting wrapped up. “It’s new to Vaughan too, so being new, perhaps that’s what caused the very low turnout.

“It could also be a good sign that people are relatively satisfied and that’s why they didn’t show up.”

Prior to the start of the meeting, Jackson scanned the crowd and guessed all but three or four were city staff.

After Deputy City Manager Clayton Harris ran through a PowerPoint presentation outlining how property tax is divided among the city, region and school boards, the public was invited to comment.

No one stepped forward and the invitation was extended again. Only then did two members of the audience approach the microphone.

Both speakers focused on the portion of the property tax collected by York Region and sent to Toronto, better known as GTA pooling. The provincially mandated program is currently being phased out, but the region has not lowered its tax rate or given any of that money back to municipal governments.

“GTA pooling will probably be the most critical issue that will hit all lower-tier municipalities in the 905,” DiVona said, acknowledging the issue’s importance. “The number one issue facing all of the 905 is what’s going to happen with GTA pooling.”

Despite the poor turnout, DiVona was still optimistic about the community’s interest in the budget proposal.

“I’m just looking forward to continuing the process of the consultation,” DiVona said. “But it’s a start, a start in the process.”

The next budget consultation will take place in council chambers on Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. at the Civic Centre. The third is scheduled for Nov. 26 at 7 p.m. at Garnet A. Williams Community Centre in Thornhill.

Vaughan Today
Friday, October 26, 2007
Page: 4
Byline: Philip Alves