The city would benefit from a comprehensive review of its services and how it delivers them.
© Times-Herald photo by Lisa Goudy
Seen at Monday's council meeting, Coun. Dawn Luhning says the information in the $22,000-citizen survey isn't anything she hasn't heard in the past.
This was the chord struck in council in reaction to Coun. Dawn Luhning’s motion requesting a core service review during Tuesday’s regular meeting.
As was quickly revealed in the debate that followed, there was substantial resistance to the proposal arising from the choice in wording and the implications of it.
The term “core service review” has become a loaded one after the same practice was employed in larger centres, in large part because it involves a third-party consultant and the cost to hire one, and is usually followed by a budget strategy involving some service cuts and privatization of certain services.
There was a clear divide over the motion in council. Nobody was disagreeing with the intent, but several disputed the execution of it.
The popular thought appeared to be council, senior city administration, or some balance of the two should handle the review and root out unnecessary spending in the budget.
There will be no outside consultants or hefty price tags. But will the cuts the city needs to make be made?
In last year’s budgets, it was revealed the city is running a “significant deficit” in its 10-year unfunded capital budget — totalling $218.89 million in infrastructure repair requirements.
Further, the city increased the municipal mill rate 4.59 per cent, generating an additional $918,065 for the city’s coffers, but increased spending by 4.82 per cent — an additional $1.71 million.
Put simply, these figures — especially those showing new spending surpassing by almost double new revenue from tax increases — are unsustainable.
Something has to give, and it has to do so quickly.
A detailed review of services and expenses may yield some efficiencies, but there has to be an appetite from council to make the hard choices — including where it may trim or cut services and jobs.
When budget season is over, not everybody will have a merry Christmas. At least, not if council does its job. Not a soul on council has rejected the assertion infrastructure should be the primary focus moving in to budget discussions.
Almost every person sitting on council was elected, in no small part, because of a promise to put the focus on the city’s decaying roads, water mains and sewage systems.
There is a curiosity in council to see where the existing money is going, but the question every Moose Javian ought to be asking is whether there exists a drive to eliminate the outlets of less importance than the city’s most basic needs.