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Letter: Rising cost of government services is a burden for taxpayers

'It's raining on taxpayers because the people put in place to shelter them are failing to make the hard decisions to do so'

Editor's note: See related story Water and wastewater budget gets final council approval.


To the editor:

As in previous years, city staff has prepared the 2023 water budget with zero direction from council and without having finalized the figures from the previous year. The resulting budget increase was unacceptable and after a few hours of cogitating during two meetings, council did not reduce the prepared budget by a single dollar.

The mayor’s recent co-opting of the Richard Gere, Primal Fear “It’s raining” quote to support the use of water reserves is flippant and misplaced. The suggestion that it's “pouring right now” certainly does not hold for the mayor or the city water department.

It’s pouring for taxpayers who are being asked to support ever-increasing costs of water, municipal tax, and hydro bills, costs which are rising largely because of increased compensation packages and aggressive capital requests.

One would be hard-pressed to prepare a list of the hardships suffered by the city itself, its administration, or its employees because of the events of the past couple of years or for that matter at any point in the last decade. It's raining on taxpayers because the people put in place to shelter them are failing to make the hard decisions to do so.

The year-over-year budget increase remains at $1.3 million and it will be the starting point city staff uses for 2024 budget preparations.

The use of $825,000 in reserves does nothing to reduce the budget, it merely artificially reduces the water rates. Reserves are not free money but funds that current and former taxpayers have previously contributed. Using them simply means we’ve prepaid for the water we will use in the coming year. The use of reserves is beneficial only when they offset one-time or unusual expenses, otherwise, they just put off making tough decisions.

The rising cost of government services is a burden for taxpayers and becoming more rampant every year. The obvious answer is to freeze controllable expenses and reign in capital budgets. Continuing down the same path and glossing over issues for much of the past decade is the reason we are no further ahead in alleviating the problem.

Council must insist on finalization of the prior year's expenses and mandate the expected budget limits before budgets are presented. Council must also be judicious in the uses of reserves and refrain from their use as a substitute for curbing expenses.

My presentation at council elicited no feedback or response from council or staff, and as usual, was completely ignored. This treatment speaks to the annual hypocrisy of the requests for public input and lack of follow-up.

The makeup of this new council offers some prospect that common sense will prevail for this year’s operating budget, we live and hope.

Donald Rennick CPA, CA

North Bay