Seven or eight people were in attendance at the second pre-budget public consultation held by the City of St. John’s on Saturday.
“It was less than we would have hoped,” said Coun. Danny Breen, though he added that the consultations are something that are evolving.
The pre-budget consultations allow for a roundtable discussion on what people would like to see addressed in the budget meetings council takes part in. This is the second year the city has done the pre-budget process with the public. There is also a new department — Strategy and Public Engagement.
“One of the things that we’re doing is finding out ways that we can improve the public consultation process and encourage more participation,” said Breen.
About a half dozen presenters were also at a pre-budget consultation earlier in the week. Breen said at the weekend’s meeting, there was a representative from the homebuilders’ association and one from the St. John’s Board of Trade.
There were also a couple of individual residents and several councillors. As with the meeting earlier in the week, public transit and Metrobus came up as a topic.
Breen called it a multi-faceted issue — one part being the service itself and then the issue of cost, which involves the cost to the rider, but also cost to the city.
Housing was also brought up at both meetings — affordable housing and housing affordability, which Breen made a distinction between. Affordable housing deals with people being able to get a house at an affordable price. The related housing affordability deals with the costs imposed on developers and how that will affect the price they sell for.
Breen said having such issues raised at these consultations does have an effect on how council deals with issues.
“I don’t know if they have an impact immediately, but it’s kind of a progression,” said Breen.
He used the example of sidewalk snowclearing coming up in the recent past, and said council went back and invested more money into it. On another occasion, volunteer sports organizations were concerned the amount of money they got from the city hadn’t gone up and so council raised the funds.
Next year, council is thinking about expanding the public consultations it has. For instance, an issue raised at the pre-budget meetings such as public transit or housing could have its own public consultation. Breen said the minutes from the two meetings this week will be taken to council for reference when they discuss the budget.