Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Budget Blues

Two quotes stood out for me from yesterday's Windsor Star article on the budget:
"Windsor administrators were told by council Monday to find ways to shave the proposed seven per cent tax hike to an increase that's closer to the rate of inflation."
That's the problem with letting administration set the budget in the first place.
"The council now will break out into operating committees, there's zero-based budgeting that needs to be done on five of the committees or six of the committees that administration has already reviewed," Mayor Eddie Francis said. "By the end of the budget process all the departments that were identified for the zero-based budget will have zero-based budget.
This part really puzzled me. Five or maybe six committees, (hopefully operating in public, but don't hold your breath) will now do zero-based budgeting on parts of the budget that administration has already reviewed? What do we call this "Modified, Modified Zero-Based Budgeting"?

No matter how you spin it, this was not the process that was used over the last two years. The Mayor and administration have been "driving" this budget from day one. Take a few minutes to go back and read the Mayor's Inaugural Address and you can see some of the budget "drivers" that were being prepared.

1. Marketing
To come together, and commit the significant funds required, to the development and implementation of a comprehensive marketing strategy that will showcase Windsor to investors and decision-makers around the globe.

Successful marketing requires critical mass – you can’t do it with small budgets. It requires a consistent message – you need to repeat the same thing time and time again.
So we need to bring groups together. We need to bring our entire region together. And develop a bold, exciting, and modern marketing campaign that tells the world about what a great place this is to live, work, visit, and invest.

We need to do this right, through an organized, deliberate campaign. It will be expensive, but by marketing ourselves properly, we can – and we will – achieve results.
I wonder what kind of budget former Mayor Millson is working with?

2. Communication
It is my hope that during our strategic sessions in the coming weeks, that Council will provide a new framework for how we communicate with our residents.

This could include publishing an annual report that will help people measure us based on our performance. It would help you hold us accountable.

Until then, my plan is to start an e-newsletter, from the Mayor to the people of Windsor.

It is the fireside chat of the twenty-first century.

And it will provide you with a direct update from me, on the progress we are making and the key issues facing our city.
The only thing missing from this section is the $259,000 planned for an improved "corporate communications" office.

Annual report? I can't remember which Councillor it was who asked a question last Monday - what ever happened to the monthly departmental reports that were supposed to be delivered to Council, and by extension, the public? If the Mayor is really looking for the fireside chat of the twenty-first century - email it's not. Try this on for size. You want to communicate with youth? Speak to the people in Planning, they've got the right idea.

3. Police Services
For the first time in nearly forty years, a comprehensive efficiency and effectiveness review of our police service was recently completed, under the leadership of Chief Glen Stannard, his executive team, and the police services board.

The result will be an unprecedented change and modernization of the Windsor police service.
This modernization will include:

• A comprehensive reorganization of the police service, including the creation of a Major Crime Squad and other new units to effectively meet the challenges presented by crime trends and technological advances;

• An investment in new tools and technologies that will allow us to fight crime using the most modern means available;

• Twenty more uniformed police officers on the beat;

• And there will be two patrol cars watching over the streets of each of our municipal wards, twenty-four hours a day.
I don't think many would debate wanting a well equipped Police force ready to meet the challenges of our city, but this seems to be presented as a fait accompli. As with many other things, where was all the talk of these grand visions during the election?

Asking for a budget with target + 1% will get you exactly that - target + 1%. Any contemplated budget below that amount will trigger the automatic warnings of "severe reductions in service"

Virtually every business in this city is having to learn how to do more with less, facing increased taxes, costs and new hurdles around every corner. Why should the City Administration be any different.

Same old, same old.