Posted September 2, 2015
When it comes to forecasting a $207 million operating budget most of the hard work rests on the city staff.
For 2015, up to June 30, the city has reported shortfalls in its tax and non tax supported budgets that totals $1,701, 355. Hey that’s chump change on a $207 million operating budget, one would think.
Hold the phone. An estimated 85.5 per cent of that total is for employee costs, union and non-union workers. The city staff is 80 per cent unionized. On most balance sheets, that’s a fixed cost.
So lets look at the amount of money left in the budget — $31, 050,000 — the first six months of the budget year sees operation spending 5.4 per cent more than was budgeted. That’s the amount of money in the budget allocated for the other entire city departments and services.
Is it possible at year end that the 2015 budget was under-forecasted by all most 11 per cent? Further, how will that affect the 2016 budget?
Again some may think this is not a serious shortfall. The weather was blamed for the freezing pipes episode in February and that’s why the water services department is over budget by $340,000. That’s an unexpected consequence of bad winter weather in areas of the city where the infrastructure is old and vulnerable.
It also demonstrates the immediate need to replace 80-year old water lines in the Elizabeth Street area when most of the water pipes seized up.
And it shows that there should be a “weather” contingency in the operating budget.
But then, according to the FrontPage headline in the Mercury, the city blames the weather for the $1,701,355 spent over the 2015 forecast. That’s a similar excuse to the eight-year old who tells the teacher that the dog ate his homework.
It wasn’t just the weather, Tonto; it was a failure of some management to stick to its budget.
And along comes Urbacon, the final chapter
Then it is reported that the final costs of the new city hall project was $65,069,735. An independent auditor reviewed all the pertinent documents and reported that a new city hall and conversion of the old city hall into a provincial court was signed to cost $42 million in 2006.
That’s another managerial mistake in judgement of epic proportion. The added cost to citizens is $23,069,755. That’s a cost of $190.65 for every person living in Guelph. Hey! Guelphspeaks also got it wrong when it predicted a loss of $20 million last spring.
Having spent the better part of a morning reading the 2012 Corporate Strategic Plan (CSP), that covers the budget periods 2013 to 2016, it is no wonder that words can’t make it happen. The document is a gold-mine of screwball and pompous assumptions, action plans, collaborative staff, sub strategic plans – strategic plans within the CSP – flooded with all the academic and corporate buzz words.
There was little bottom line rhetoric. Just an exercise produced to please the boss, in this case the former mayor who is a seasoned policy wonk.
Don’t go any further than the $23,069,755 waste of money spent on the new City Hall project to point the finger. The former mayor never apologized to the citizens for the debacle, nor did Councillors. Leanne Piper, Mike Salisbury, June Hofland, and Karl Wettstein. They were on city council in September 2008 when Urbacon was kicked off the job and still there today as they were re-elected in October.
That in itself is confounding and lacks rationality.
But the stain of their lack of fiduciary responsibility in the matter will never go away.
They were there and they were responsible.