Putting Humpty Dumpty back together again

Ron Bolin: April 12, 2016

At its COW (Committee of the Whole) meeting on Monday, April 11, our City Council, while displaying differences of opinion on various matters, still kept the discussion on the solid rails of reason and reasoned opinion.  There was promise in the air as, following a well-constructed and presented financial plan for 2016-2020 by Staff from the Finance Department, and a reasoned discussion by Council, a motion for Staff to prepare the final document for adoption at its next meeting on April 18 was passed.

The following documents were presented:

The Budget Workshop presentation:

https://www.nanaimo.ca/UploadedFilesPath/Site_Structure/Corporate_Services/Corporate_Administration/Presentations/COW160411P2016_-_2020_Budget_Workshop.pdf

Financial Reserves Summary:

https://www.nanaimo.ca/UploadedFilesPath/Site_Structure/Corporate_Services/Corporate_Administration/Presentations/COW160411P2016_-_2020_Financial_Plan_Reserves_Summary.pdf

These and previous financial documents which indicate the City’s financial health are a vast improvement over previous methodologies.  In particular, this method indicates the existing situation and invites Council to add to it if they wish to do so, thus highlighting where increased spending originates.  Previous financial plans tended to throw everything into the plan and then “dare” Council to subtract something, thus placing a very heavy political price on any Councillor who dared to try to take anything away from one or more of the groups in town who benefited from inclusion.

Getting to a budget which reflects the tasks which MUST be done before examining those things which we might like to do comes much closer to the way in which household finances must be done.  First we must calculate if there is anything of our income left over after we have paid all our obligations, and then, if something is left over, we can decide what to do with it.  And if we want something and nothing is left over, then we must look for a second job to bring in more income…. We cannot simply take those funds from others.

In this regard, I do note that there is nothing in the documentation to date which defines the anticipated magnitude of gifts, grants and property tax exemptions on all property tax payers.  Gifts, grants and Exemptions benefit some at the cost of others and should be openly recognized.  I have requested a review of GGE on property taxes in the 2016-2020 time frame from Finance Director Mema who has indicated that I can expect a response in a few days.  When it arrives I will provide in a comment to this post.

It will be noted that the vote to direct Staff to prepare the financial plan and the budget for final adoption at the next Council meeting was unanimous, excepting Councillor Brennan who found it objectionable that there should be no property tax increase included in 2016. You may wish to take up the reasons for this stance with Councillor Brennan, as I can find no such general rule of taxation.

 

Regarding other matters from the meeting, take note that the City now provides within a day or two of Council/COW meetings, a summary of those meetings which provides a much needed link between meetings and final minutes.  Our City administration is to be much congratulated for this new service.  The link can be found here:

http://www.nanaimo.ca/EN/main/municipal/city-council/city-council-report-summary/committee-of-the-whole-meeting-summary-april-11-2016.html

Among these other non-housekeeping items are:

  • Declining a request to provide a member to join a railway committee.
  • The provision of a $15,000 grant to developing a methodology for integrating the value of our natural environment into our financial and management strategies. Googling something like “assessing natural capital” will lead you to a considerable body of work in this area which is only now being applied at the municipal level.  A BC example in this area can be found here:  http://www.gibsons.ca/include/get.php?nodeid=1000
  • The direction of Staff to examine the Home Based Business Bylaw to attempt to resolve contradictions such as those presented by a bakery at 5491 Rutherford Road.
  • Thanks from Loaves and Fishes to the City to have cast bread upon the water which has indeed returned the City’s investment many fold.

 

As a matter of interest, I have entered an FOI request to determine the all-in cost of the COW meeting of April 11 in the SARC building compared to the all-in cost of the last COW meeting held at the VICC.   I will provide the response obtained when it is received.  [The City normally had 30 days to respond to an FOI request.]

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