Posted October 22, 2013
Remember last year when the city staff recommended an 8.5 per cent property tax increase?
Council in its wisdom, told staff it had to be 3 per cent. Go back to the drawing board and figure it out.
This prompted a pout from Chief Administration Officer Anne Pappert who called council’s demand “regressive”. The saw off came in the final meeting to set the budget. Council adopted a motion from Coun. Gloria Kovach that required the staff to find $500,000 of efficiencies in 2013.
The result was setting the lowest tax rate increase in many years of 2.96 per cent. Everybody went home that night cheering the accomplishment.
It was premature. First, the adjustments to the budget created a 3.74 per cent tax increase. This makes one wonder why they budget at all.
The second event was the staff reported in June that it could only find $126,000 in “efficiencies”. The largest portion of the report included an increase in revenues, not savings.
Then, the staff estimate of laying a new floor in the Farmer’s Market ballooned from $176,000 to $500,000.
Let’s pretend for a moment. Suppose you are the CEO of a company and the Chief Financial Officer, on his own, sends out a letter to managers that the new rate for widgets will be 3.4 per cent higher than last year, without telling the CEO.
What do you think would happen?
This is what happened recently when CFO Al Horsman sent out a letter to city senior managers stating the executive team is considering recommending an “all-in” tax rate increase of 3.4 per cent for 2014.
Coun. Cam Guthrie expressed surprise at the recommendation and stated he favoured a zero-based budgeting process in which discussion should start on the assumption that there will be no property tax increase.
Guthrie is right. Why is there a culture in the staff hierarchy that believes property taxes can continue to increase beyond the rate of inflation every year? Or is the Farbridge agenda demanding such increases to meet its self-interest objectives.
So the attitude among senior staff is “let them eat cake” as they proceed to milk the taxpayers with impunity with little regard for the fall out.
This city cannot continue to spend money on airy intangibles and inflated staff costs.
A little over a year from now, a new council will have to face dealing with record debt and operational costs that the Farbridge administration created in eight years in office.
It is not an envious task. It will take forward thinking individuals who have experience in managing business and finances to correct the multi-faceted debris left by the Farbridge administration.