New online tool lets residents decide where tax dollars go

Oak Bay launching new engagement tool for citizen input on budget

Oak Bay residents will soon be able to take a stab at municipal budgeting with the launch of an online budget simulation tool called Citizen Budget.

This public engagement tool will provide citizens an opportunity to learn more about the district’s budgeting processes and will send valuable citizen input to council for consideration when deliberating 2018 budget priorities.

“This a terrific initiative for increasing engagement and transparency,” said Coun. Tara Ney after the report on the tool was presented to council.

In past years, council relied on survey data and input gathered at Estimates Committee meetings to gauge citizen priorities. This new tool will create another stream for citizen input and feedback.

Citizen Budget stems from the district learning through survey responses that residents want to engage with the municipality online. This is a trial year, and after the budget process is complete, staff and council will evaluate the success of the tool to see if it should continue to be used in the municipality.

Once launched, the tool will be available through a link on the district’s website. It is designed to include charts, links and background information on various municipal services to help guide residents through the consultation. It will provide a breakdown of where residents’ tax dollars get allocated based on their home’s assessed value.

Dashboard analytics and summary reports from the process will be reviewed by mayor and council and will provide insight for 2018 budget discussions and decisions.

“I am so pleased to see this opportunity to engage with the community better about the budget,” said Coun. Michelle Kirby.

Several municipalities in B.C. are currently using Citizen Budget including Victoria. Oak Bay staff reached out to many of the municipalities to ask about their experiences with the tool and received positive feedback from everyone.

It will use a combination of postal codes and IP addresses to ensure that participation and feedback is limited to Oak Bay residents.

“I think this will be a very valuable tool for us,” said Mayor Nils Jensen.

The software is a product of Open North, a not-for-profit, social enterprise that specializes in the development of innovative online tools that promote greater government transparency and citizen participation.

The target launch is in March.

keri.coles@oakbaynews.com

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