EDITORIAL: What matters

City of Parksville officials explain what 'welfare' really means in their budget pie chart

Mayor Chris Burger wanted to set the record straight.

Or provide an education.

Either way, we were cordially invited to Parksville City Hall this week for a chat with the mayor and CAO Fred Manson about the budget and the use of the word “welfare” a few times in the city’s pie chart explaining where $15 million goes every year. We published the pie chart on page 3 of our May 9 edition and we shared the curiousity of some readers who scoffed at the references to “Organizational Welfare, Economic Welfare, Community and Social Welfare.”

We appreciated the invitation and, despite our tardiness, Burger and Manson were welcoming and forthcoming.

They explained what the welfare references meant, and, really, it’s just an organizational thing, an easier way for councillors, the mayor and staff to know what goes where on the operational side of things. It’s set up in a similar way as the capital expenditures side of the budget, so that all makes sense to those who work at city hall, we’re sure.

Burger and Manson then went on to explain how their budget process includes looks into the future, with projections of both revenue and the capital projects they know will come up in certain years. For example the current $2 million Temple Street project was first talked about — and reflected in future budgets — 10-12 years ago.

It all seemed clear and, frankly, well run.

When they did stray from the raw numbers and the process — perhaps they saw our eyes start to glaze over — Burger spoke proudly about the process and the operational savings Manson was able to show this year ($100,000). However, the mayor did seem rather perplexed about the general public’s lack of interest in the budget.

“When we hold these budget meetings, only two or three people show up and that’s ironic because this sets direction for the city,” said Burger.

He’s right — the way the process is set up, a budget meeting one year could have a big effect on what gets done in Parksville for a decade or more. While debates about chickens or subdivisions might attract a crowd to a city council meeting, perhaps residents are ignoring the meetings that really matter.

— Editorial by John Harding