We had the first vote on the budget last week. Despite the initial information that was provided in December, indicating that 16% increase would be required to meet all of our delayed maintenance and other obligations, what has finally floated to the top is a $60 base tax and a 3.25% increase. How administration can line up these two widely disparate numbers is beyond me, particularly when the latest mantra is that the flat tax will go into a reserve fund - we'll see how long any reserve lasts with this council and its practice of spend first, budget later, most recently illustrated with the I-pad purchase.
I've blogged so much about this budget process that I'm tired of repeating myself, but I will say that I can't support this budget for several big reasons.
First, I can't support the flat tax. It puts a proportionally greater burden on low and fixed income residents. I know that $60 doesn't seem like much; I also know that now that the precedent has been set, it won't stay at $60.
Second, I can't support a budget that did not look at reducing spending - didn't even try. This council and administration follows the easy route of going to the tax payer rather than looking at spending first. This is lazy budgeting, and the citizens of Prince Albert deserve better.
Third, we are getting less and less information in the budget. Last year it was a one line police budget; this year, more and more detail of the other parts of the budget is getting summarized, which makes it difficult to figure out if we're spending too much in any area, or note areas where expenditures could be reduced.
Finally, the whole process is too secretive. We had too many meetings in which the budget was discussed, but which were labeled strategic planning so that the public wasn't allowed to watch. This is wrong.
Despite all of these problems, which are pretty basic as far as I'm concerned, most of council voted in favour of this pathetic excuse for a budget. Maybe they don't understand all of the implications, maybe they do, and just don't care, maybe, as one councillor told me after the meeting, they're just tired of the process and want to get it over with.
That's not why I was elected. Our job on council is to ask the hard questions, to look at all the alternatives, to think about what is best for all of the citizens of Prince Albert, and to think things through until we've come up with the best solution possible. A budget that has gone through that kind of thinking, I could support. Not this one.
"Life is tough. It's tougher if you're stupid." - John Wayne