Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Budget rhethoric

It's budget time - time to roll out the same old rhetoric. If you want to save money, the only way to do it is to cut services.
Windsor City Council will have a tough time deciding whether to settle for a 2.6 percent tax hike this year or try to lower it and abolish programs or positions. City administrators have handed in their tentative budget proposals that would see a 1.6 percent hike in operating costs and a 1 percent capital levy. Mayor Eddie Francis says councillors may object to some of the proposals that are recommended. In past years, administration has recommended closing Atkinson pool and the Lanspeary rink to save money. City council voted to keep those facilities open.


The never ending mantra of City Hall at budget time.

This is what the Modified Zero Based Budgeting was supposed to eliminate - Administration presenting budgets as a fait acommpli. "This is the budget and if you want to save money then you must cut this, close this and reduce that"

The Mayor can spin it any way he wants but this year's budget process is not the Modified Zero Based Budget process that was followed in recent years.

What happened to starting at ZERO on all discretionary items and requiring each department to justify each expenditure? It's now March 14th and to my knowledge, Councillors have not received the budget documents as yet. The public certainly hasn't.

We're back to a closed door process.

What ever happened to the monthly departmental reports that were supposed to be presented to Council? This was to assist Council in tracking individual departments performance vis a vis their budget. The end of the year is not the time to find out about increasing overtime costs, the impact of fuel prices on budgets, absentee rates etc.

There are many tough questions that should be asked each and every year at budget time, especially on the operations side.

The City opened 4 more Service Centres last year. Was staff shifted from the Clerks Office or other City Departments to fill these positions or did we simply hire more staff?

What is the City's absentee rate? What steps are being taken to achieve the lowest rate possible?

What is the City travel budget for conferences and such? While items like this are often defended as being very worthwhile, educational and a relative small amount in the overall budget - look at it another way. Reducing the Council food budget from $35,000.00 to $10,000.00 would produce $25,000.00 in savings. Ten $25,000.00 dollar reductions equals $250,000.00. Ten $250,000.00 dollar reductions equals $2.5 million.

The answer is not "cut this entire program" or "close this facility". This is the standard administration tactic of providing Councillors with politically unpalatable choices in order to reduce spending.

/rant off