Council’s Budgetary Priorities: Unreported & Untested
Ron Bolin — June 30, 2010
Mayor Ruttan and Councillors:
At the FPCOW meeting on Monday, the following item was laid over pending further discussion.
“2011 – 2015 Financial Plan Priorities
Staff’s Recommendation: That Council either:
1. confirm the 11 budget priorities previously stated by Council;
2. provide alternate budget direction.”
I note that the 2009 Annual Municipal Report makes no mention of these budget priorities nor have I seen any analysis of the success or failure of their implementation in the 2009/2010 budget. Neither have I found the methods by which their utility could be measured. I would suggest that, in order to be truly useful, such measures and analyses should be implemented in the future and should be presented to citizens in the City’s Annual Report. I suggest this topic for discussion at the eventual seminar and would further suggest that a method of public involvement in this discussion be found.
As an aside, I note that the budget is one of the City’s primary activities which has no accompanying advisory committee. While one must recognize the primacy of Council in this area, in the end it is also primary in all other committee areas and appointed advisory committees are just that, advisory.
Thank you for your consideration.
The City has responded:
Thanks for your comments.
I agree that the setting of budget priorities was an accomplishment in 2009 and should have been included in the 2009 Annual Municipal Report. The annual report is a document that has many contributors and somehow that got overlooked when it was being compiled.
As you probably know, one of the City’s strategic objectives is “positioning Council for strategic planning”. The setting of budget priorities is part of this process. At some point, this could be followed up with some kind of performance measurement and public reporting, depending on future Council direction.
With regard to your final comment, Council has traditionally believed that the budget is sufficiently important that it should be dealt with by all members of Council. This makes it an appropriate subject for the Finance/Policy Committee of the Whole, which was established to deal with financial matters (among other things).
Director of Finance
City of Nanaimo
For the record, you may wish to see the 11 budget priorities established by Council, though subsequently overlooked in the Annual Report. You may also wish to ask yourself if you think these priorities are effective. If I remember correctly, their priorities will lead to a 5.7% increase in the residential property tax rate next year.
Council’s Budget Priorities
1. Maintain safe and adequate water supply and sewer services
2. Develop a strategy for increased energy self-sufficiency (including energy production)
3. Economy/ability to pay, support green industry
4. Downtown Hotel
5. Recreation facility replacement/sports recreation centre
6. Public transportation
7. Environmental protection
8. Growth management
9. Engage in long-term strategic planning
10. Public safety (police and fire protection)
11. Create strong pride of place
It is very difficult to maintain that one of the biggest projects currently on our books and under development (around $11 million, if I remember correctly) matches any of these priorities. I refer to the development of a double lane on Bowen Road around the Quarterway Bridge which will also take off a strip from Bowen Park. This project promotes automobile use (I have heard some complain though I use the route regularly and have never had to wait more than one light), and it certainly runs counter to the promotion of energy efficiency(2), economy/ability to pay or green industry(3), support for public transportation (6) and environmental protection (7) and long term strategic planning (9).
It is significant that this long planned project was not inconvenienced by the performance of a review under these new budget priorities. Taxpayers will pay accordingly. It should be noted that much of the 5.7% increase in the residential tax rate in 2011 is a result of this project.
Short sighted and wrong headed.
As part of a re-think of public transit (including dedicated bus lanes) on the Bowen corridor, the cost of this might be justified but otherwise it’s time to stop these massively expensive investments in automobile infrastructure.
Is there any evidence that this is “part of a rethink of public transit”?
Is there any evidence that this was justified in any way other than that’s the way roadway engineers think?
I hear talk about unjustified “mights” way too often. The moon might still be made of green cheese, but we just didn’t dig deep enough yet… The term “might” should be banned from any rational discussion following its first sentence. It should then be followed in full by some cogent and measurable information which could lead to a reasonable conclusion.
For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: “It might have been!”
I think you’ve misunderstood me, Ron. No doubt because I haven’t expressed my thought well. My point is that there is not a re-think of public transit along the Bowen corridor being undertaken by our Engineering and Planning Departments. I speculate idly (you don’t want idle speculation eliminated from discussions here, surely) that the cost of widening the Quarterway Bridge might be justified if it was being undertaken.
Just to clarify: The shortsightedness and wrongheadedness I refer to I attribute to the City decision makers authorizing this $11 million dollar project when we can’t afford it and don’t need it.
Frank: I don’t mind idle speculation from the public, and it can serve the purpose of beginning an intelligent discussion. What I find fault with is highly paid professionals indulging in idle speculation about the value of taxpayers money. A study showing that the benefit to the public of such a project as this road widening would have a positive benefit to the public -and more benefit than would an alternate project (not necessarily a road project)- or keeping the money in the public’s pocket should be demanded.
I worry that in this case as in others such as the conference centre we are turning ourselves into victims who are not entitled to demand professional due diligence but must remain silent in the light of might.