Oak Bay Municipal Hall filled with mini mayors and mini councillors recently as Selkirk Montessori students tried their hand at budgeting.
Mayor Nils Jensen, who has been running these educational experiences for school groups annually since he took office as mayor, puts together a program for the students – sometimes it is a debate at council, other times it is the popular budgeting game.
The intent is to learn by doing and to have a little fun at the same time.
— Nils Jensen (@MayorNils) November 15, 2017
Tuesday’s exercise had seven students assigned as council, 10 as staff (sitting behind name plates just like the staff do), and the rest of the group as voters. They go through a scenario where they are given $100 of tax money and they have to decide how they would like to spend it.
“They are wonderfully engaged. They come up with incredible ideas,” says Jensen.
Mayor Jensen starts by asking the staff, such as the police officer, how much of the $100 they need. Then they go down the line of staff and invariably they run out of money before the end. Then the question arises – what should council do now?
“Yesterday was interesting, because the group in the morning said they weren’t going to raise taxes, where the group in the afternoon voted unanimously to raise taxes by 15 per cent,” says Jensen. While the mini citizens supported council’s decision to raise taxes by 15 per cent, Jensen noted that the parents sitting in the back of the room were less enthusiastic about such an increase.
At the end, there is always a discussion about what the students learned.
The general consensus is usually that being a mayor or council member is hard work with lots of difficult decisions to make.
“We just want to give so much money to so many good things, but there just isn’t that much money,” said one student.
It is a little slice of reality and it is a good way for students to learn about government. Mayor Jensen also discusses the responsibilities of local, provincial, and federal governments. The discussions usually expand to talk about the community, First Nations history, flora and fauna of the area, and other community related topics.
It is a fun and engaging way for students to gain insight into the inner workings of municipal politics.
Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.