Brockville's small-town neighbours

You can say what you want about Brockville's budget, and there's usually plenty to say, but at least your criticisms and complaints have to do with the content of the budget, and not its disclosure -- or lack thereof.

In a decade or so covering city council, I have never had to fight for access to city budget details. In fact, I recall sitting at a table in the Victoria Building with three very patient women, each of them in charge of a different section of the budget, hashing out how to add up operating, capital, water and sewer to come up with a comprehensive total expenditures figure.

There are plenty more details in Brockville's budget than in a smaller municipality like, say, Front of Yonge. So it was more than a little surprising to hear my colleague, Alanah Duffy, tell me staff and elected officials there were telling her to wait a week for the details of a 3.7-per-cent levy increase last night. And this, after third reading -- that is to say, after the budget is done and adopted.

This sort of thing doesn't happen in the... ahem... big city. Had this been a Brockville budget, there would have been a power-point explaining to councillors and staff how this tax increase was arrived at, or at the very least a handout at the entrance to the council chamber.

Front of Yonge is not blessed with the same number of staffers as a small urban municipality, so the power-point would be a luxury to ask for. A few stapled sheets on the table, however, would not be. And if the numbers differ because of the measures taken that night, a few words of explanation to a reporter would suffice.

It's all part of the democratic process, which includes reporters informing residents about budgets -- and not a week after it happened.

Dear township officials, this is in your interest. A 3.7-per-cent increase may not be easy to explain, but chances are the truth in your explanation is probably not as ugly as whatever an uninformed taxpayer may be inclined to imagine.