A letter from a Wolfville resident concerning the recent Fiscal Sustainability Task Force meeting, received via e-mail.
Memo to: Mayor Stead and Council
I am writing to enlarge on a point I made last night at the public input meeting about the Fiscal Sustainability Report. Also, I’ll make other comments.
But firstly let me congratulate the town, and in particular Mr. Irving, for the report which must have taken considerable research, time and thought.
I appreciate the problem we face and also I realize residents may be asked to pay increased taxes. But the town must lead the way. It must first tighten its spending until it hurts. Furthermore, your resolve must be reflected in the current budget if you intend to raise our taxes, already very high.
Here is just one example of living beyond our means: in the last ten years the town has increased very significantly its donations to institutions. This has proven a very slippery path and we’re sliding more every year. Also, although I am effectively contributing through taxation, I’m unable to take advantage of any tax deduction. Furthermore, you may be supporting causes I may not identify with.
You need to firmly cap this expense and reduce or even stop contributions as well as freeze growth in the number of causes asking for support. As an alternative, you and Council might set the example by making personal contributions and encouraging the public to follow your example through appeals.
There must be other areas where the town can achieve savings. But it’s impossible for residents to see through the maze. For example, expense budgets should be based on actual figures for the previous year, but instead, we see an irrelevant (last year’s) budget. Why?
With respect, in budgeting we should be comparing items with actual results for the first nine months of the previous year, plus an estimated final quarter (which we’re now in). This is basic and it’s easy. I negotiated budgets for over 30 bank branches for a dozen years, and what I‘m suggesting is straightforward and transparent. With actual numbers for the nine months already known, whole year projections should be very accurate.
What is happening is not transparent and, unfortunately, raises suspicions. I have been saying to Council for years that we need more transparency and straight talk. How else can we buy into further tax increases? An absolutely necessary step in this direction is to present figures at the upcoming budget meeting with the above prominently in mind. The town needs to stop producing murky figures which even Council members cannot evaluate responsibly.
Only if at the upcoming budget meeting the town is seen to be tightening its belt as prudently as possible and presenting clear figures, would I be satisfied and willing to climb aboard.
Also, as someone pointed out last night there’s no need to panic. Let’s take time to do this right.
Thanks for considering the above,
Related: See also (ex Councillor) Bob Wrye’s thoughts on the budget method contained here in a comment on a previous post.