Poor city budget process equals poor results
An open letter to the members of Red Deer city council, in relation to the 2014 operating budget:
We are on the same team — striving to make our great city even greater, and in your very important role, we hope that you sincerely consider the significant taxpayer savings opportunities below.
Once again, our city’s operating budget has increased spending by more than combined inflation and population growth in our city.
For 2014, our city’s operating budget is reported to be about $305 million. In 2003, our operational spending was only about $89 million. If our city’s operating budget strived to limit spending increases to our combined population and inflation increases for this period, operational spending this year would be more than $100 million less! Isn’t that remarkable? A $100-million reduction in taxes and fees translates into about $1,000 for every man, woman and child in our city, each year.
How has our city’s spending spiraled so out of control?
We invite our new mayor and council to seize the opportunity to fix our previous administration’s flawed budgeting processes. A critical step would be for our new council (not city administrators, who are in an inherent conflict of interest) to engage the services of a reputable, independent management professional to review the city’s operations on a “value for money” or “zero-based” budget basis and report savings opportunities to council, which could be applied to next year’s operating budget.
For example, for snow removal, rather than automatically adding the cost of the increase to city taxpayers, a zero-based budget would require our city manager to look within his sprawling government organization for savings opportunities and reallocate resources from areas of marginal utility to areas of greater priority. Sure this requires more effort from our city manager, but with annual salary and benefits of $386,000 in 2012 (as per the city’s 2012 annual report, 2013 is not yet available to the public), shouldn’t taxpayers be able to expect more accountability and capability from him?
We understand that out of a $305-million budget, there were only spending cuts of about $50,000 (0.0164 per cent of the total); with our city manager bringing to council unpalatable proposals from his departments for cost savings that punish city residents, such as increasing weekend closure dates for city recreational facilities! We invite our new council not to follow the mistakes of the past mayor and councils by limiting themselves to disingenuous proposals that fail to truly confront the structural inefficiencies in our city’s growing bureaucracies.
When our city strives for excellence in its responsible use of taxpayer dollars, it makes it easier for individuals, families, and businesses in our community to do likewise. We invite all city residents to visit our website (www.reddeertaxpayers.ca) to learn more about opportunities to make our city better.
Jason Stephan, CA, LB, TEP
Red Deer Taxpayers’ Association