Thursday, December 12, 2013

Nanaimo Tax Budget - Another Dog & Pony Show?

Nanaimo Taxpayers 
Budget Input Curtailed

There are several principles behind the new budgeting process which at first glance seem like they will be an improvement. They are intended to give city councillors a greater indepth, department by department understanding of the services the city provides and the costs to provide those services. Ostensibly this is supposed to give councillors a better understanding of the whole budgeting process, so they may make more informed decisions that will effect taxes in the city.

I have sat in on all the Committee of the Whole meetings which were two hour sessions, in which the council was given a two hour crash course in the operations of different city departments. For example the first few sessions dealt with Parks, Recreation and Culture and were followed by Public works. While this does in fact give more information about the operations of these departments it is basically the process used in past years, but on steroids.

In years past, city council was presented with a five year financial plan in December sometime, in which staff laid out the budget for the next five year period, usually explaining why city staff needed another 25% or so to maintain the status quo in the city. City Council would smile and nod, scratch their chins and ask a few questions which inevitably led to them getting out the rubber stamp and endorsing what staff presented.

We then went through the sham process of passing an 'interim' budget sometime in January, so staff could carry on with the city's business. From January until May, the Nanaimo taxpayers were given the opportunity to examine the budget and offer input, which for the most part is simply ignored by staff, and perhaps not understood by most of council.

This whole little charade last year included an eTown Hall meeting where council pretended to take input from the Nanaimo taxpayer, and then carried on with the budget they had already endorsed in January. During this four month period a couple of councillors were soundly ridiculed for trying to insist staff find efficiencies that could possibly reduce the tax increase. Whether their efforts were sincere, or made for political gain, is something you will have to decide for yourself.

City councillors for the most part, probably can't read a financial statement in any case, and pretty much considered their job done by asking staff if these tax increases are necessary, to which staff always answers in the affirmative.

This new process insures that there will no longer be the pretense of asking for public input, as apparently this new process means the taxpaying public is not even going to see the budget unitl a month before it is adopted.

The new process just means, that when council gets out the big rubber stamp, they will have a lot more numbers swirling around in their heads.


1 comment:

  1. That's not the only "dog and pony show". Smoke and mirrors fog and sparkle brightly this holiday season while the wagons are circled of the council desk so nosy taxpayers don't pry for a look in. Sitting alongside soon will be the non-elected staff who are proving year after year they are no Scrooge - they will give away more than all our fair show of tax money! Ho, Ho - you know the rest!


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