Posted July 17, 20012
The 2013 budget workshop is applying the same tactic that has been the case for the past six years. Scare the taxpayers with a big number such as a tax increase next year of 8.5 per cent but then have staff suggest it could be 3 per cent.
Trouble is the 8.5 per cent staff proposal includes a $15 million increase of costs next year. Topping off the list are staff increases of $4.5 million; $2.9 million bump in police, library and public health costs; increase of $3.2 million in capital costs; $2.2 million for “growth related “ costs.
This year’s city budget totals $174 million. Adding another 15 million is an 8.62 per cent increase. That’s not sustainable and staff knows it.
Besides we’re only talking about the expenses-side of the budget. What are the anticipated increases in revenue, if any, before the taxpayer’s contribution?
And where does the new downtown development incentive costs enter the picture. One chunk promised to a condo developer is $3.5 million. Without regurgitating details of this risky scheme, this is the beginning of the annual budget dance.
The taxpayers are yanked up, then down, trying to figure out whether the process is to their benefit.
Answer: It a game being played, unfortunately by rank amateurs who scurry about pushing their minor and major agendas.
And you read it here first; the 2013 tax increase will be 3.5 per cent once the dust settles.
I agree that there is a need for belt-tightening of the city budget.
As a public service, here’s how:
Freeze staff hiring for one year.
Freeze all staff wage/salary increases. Save $4.5 million
Freeze all increases to local boards. Save $2.9 million.
Order all city departments to reduce budgets by 5 per cent. Estimated saving is $5.3 million.
Suspend capital spending for one year
Only increase taxes across the board by the official rate of inflation for 2012.
All of this is achievable if there is political will on the part of council.
It’s time for some fiscal backbone to face reality. This city can no longer afford to increase costs annually 10 per cent, the real estimated expense growth of city budgets over the past six years. And that figure is probably low considering the soaring $118 million debt the city has approved.
This has some troubling background music playing. Already there is the possibility of another $116 million in capital projects being proposed, including the $63 million downtown Library; $16 million proposal to create a riverside park demolishing a thriving strip mall; $37 million for the South End community recreation centre.
Planning these projects goes well past the lifespan of this council and is superficial and self-serving for its members.
What a hangover for the new council to endure.
It’s time for taxpayers to get a break.