When is too much too much? It’s a difficult fine line to determine in the realm of budgeting for any government. On the one hand, increasing services can be part of a progressive community looking towards its future. On the other hand, anything that results in higher taxes should be regarded with a healthy dose of skepticism.
As presented at Monday’s regular council meeting, city administration’s recommended 2012 operating budget includes $470,000 in spending to help the City of Moose Jaw achieve various strategic priorities as were part of the strategic plan council approved earlier in November.
The initiatives included within the proposed budget are described as investments for the following strategic priorities: community pride, sustainable community growth, community wellness, community safety and progressive civic administration.
While programs such as funding for heritage initiatives and implementing a municipal green plan with the focus on the potential of a curbside recycling program are no doubt important and beneficial, the fact is the new spending included in the proposed budget is part of the overall increases in expenses that could result in a 3.92 per cent mill rate increase for local property owners.
Of course, there are other factors within the budget that result in increases to expenses. After all, the anticipated shortfall for next year totals $749,642 — so obviously spending related to strategic planning can’t account for all tax increases. With rising wages and inflation, it seems much of what causes the mill rate to go up year to year is unavoidable.
But the city has revenue sources aside from taxation as well and, if those can be maximized in the direction of covering necessary costs, then it should be reasonable to assume tax increases could be minimized as much as possible.
So is it better to embrace new programs and accept tax increases as a consequence, or is it better to maintain status quo as much as possible in an attempt to keep property taxes consistent?
This is more than a numbers game. This is a deeply philosophical issue and government must carefully and thoughtfully weigh all factors when deciding how it will pursue when setting the operating budget. That is the voters’ money after all.
Undoubtedly all members of Moose Jaw city council are aware of the awesome responsibility with which they are tasked, and will commit the degree of contemplation and reflection an issue of this magnitude warrants.
All Times-Herald editorials are written by the editorial staff.