Tax Payer's Association questions budget, CPI linkThursday, October 17, 2013 by: Jamie LyleDon Rennick, an executive member of the Tax Payer's Association, wants the city to stop comparing the rate of inflation with the Consumer Price Index saying that the two are not relevant to each other nor to the operating costs of the city.
Rennick told council during a public presentation that the (CPI) is already negotiated into the 2.6 percent annual increase in wages and therefore, is irrelevant to the departmental budgetary increases of 1.5 percent.
Rennick said that, in his view, council is confusing its citizens by mixing up the CPI with increases in their budgetary spending.
“What we're fighting for is to get the budget reduced, and that certainly hasn't happened,” says Rennick, adding “meanwhile, we're hearing things like inflation is causing the rise in taxes but it has nothing to do with inflation.”
He's also concerned that it's salaries and not the city budget that are causing the increases year on year and questions whether or not council is presenting a fair assessment of where the monies are going.
“What they're doing is raising wages and benefits by over 4 percent over the last 4 years while reducing other expenditures to get the budget down to last years 2.6 percent,” Rennick says.
Rennick argued against setting an operating budget on guesses and estimates on what might be spent on the unfinished 2013 budget, especially since the economy, unlike the municipality, has seen numerous years of negative growth for at least those outside the employment of municipal and government services.
“What we need to know is how much they've spent last year and how much they expect to spend this year,” he says.
Rennick also noted that council was, in his opinion, rushing to complete the 2014 budget by early December of 2013, well before the numbers for the previous year are fully known.
“We have no idea as to how much the budget is going up and yet it's already been approved by December 9th, so it really doesn't make sense,” he says.
Mayor Al McDonald says it would be great to cut taxes by 50 percent and “be a hero,” although he says that he's also aware that the option isn't feasible.
“I have to make decisions that are realistic for our citizens and in the best interests of our city and, having said that, I still want the lowest tax rate increase in 13 years,” McDonald says.
With the operating budget coming under constant scrutiny by council and it's taxpayers, it is sometimes hard to into perspective all the numbers and the ideologies that surround the issues.
To many, the municipal budget process can be a difficult concept to grasp, with a hundred million dollars of spending being explained away.
“It's hard to get a hold of the magnitude of what we do,” says Councillor Vaillancourt, adding that there is “frustration on both sides.”
Even though the two sides have squared off against each other during the past year, the real frustration is that a division has been made when there simply shouldn't be as they seem to be both in it for the bettering of the citizens of this city.