We’re now getting into the dreaded “budget season”, where the city lays out the budget for the year ahead. But it doesn’t have to be painful.

It can even be insightful, interesting…even fun…?

This is an excellent time for all of us to reflect on our vision for our city, and analyze how closely Council’s vision (coined the “Path to Zero”, or 0% tax increase) falls in line with our personal values. It is an excellent time to get to know our member of council, see how they represent us, connect with the entire council, and meet and discuss with other Londoners about an issue that impacts us all.

And there are many ways to get involved! For the first time, the city has created a budget participation project similar to “ReThink London” for the planning process. They are encouraging Londoners to connect and participate in a number of ways, including:

  • Check out the main budget page, and read through the budget documents. The documents are broken down by the main services, so subjects of interest can be found easily without reading through the entire (massive) report.
  • Read, listen to, and contemplate opinion pieces on this proposed budget. As we get closer to the budget sessions London media will have many different writers and speakers discussing this important issue. Two blogs I recommend are by Abe Oudshoorn (@AbeOudshoorn) and Philip McLeod (@TheMcLeodReport), Citizen Corps also has a list of London bloggers.
  • Build A Budget Workshop happening Saturday January 12th at the top floor of City Hall (see this link for more details). It will be an opportunity to learn the about the budget, and ask questions and provide input into the process. Citizens, Mayor Fontana, Councillors and senior City staff are invited to come together for this event. I’ll be at the afternoon session, hope to see you there!
  • There are several public participation meetings over the next two months, culminating in the final budget approval February 28th. The link has all the important dates, and all sessions (except the Build A Budget) will be streamed live. These are a terrific opportunity to see Council in action and to see first hand the decisions they’re making on the budget.
  • You can e-mail, Facebook, call (Financial Planning @ 519-661-4638) and Tweet (@CityofLdnOnt) to the City with your ideas. If you’re on Twitter, you can also use the hashtag #LdnBudget13 to post your throughts.
  • Meet, call, write your Councillor with your ideas about the budget, and hear their thoughts about the process.
  • Discuss with other citizens, read about the budget process, blog your thoughts! The more people that are thinking about and analyzing where our collective money is going, the better it is for our city. I hope that this year many Londoners new to the process will become involved (as I did last year), and many more will become even more invested this year.

This can actually be an exciting time of year, and is truly an opportunity to become more involved in our city. It is my hope that we can use this time to connect as a community, invision our future and work to find a way to make it happen in a way that can be to the satisfaction and benefit to as many as possible.

As Philip McLeod states in his latest blog post“What is important to you about the services the city now provides in exchange for your tax dollars? What do you value most? It’s time to speak up, London. After all, we pay for this budget.”