Ex­er­cise in se­man­tics ‘de­signed to con­fuse the pub­lic’

North Bay Nugget - - OPINION -

to the ed­i­tor: it looks like déjà vu all over again after this year’s wa­ter bud­get meet­ings.

tues­day evening, en­gi­neer­ing and works com­mit­tee chair­man Mike an­thony’s mo­tion to ap­ply a por­tion of the an­tic­i­pated 2018 wa­ter and waste wa­ter sur­plus to re­duce this year’s wa­ter bud­get was panned by his com­mit­tee mem­bers Scott robert­son, Mar­cus tig­nanelli and Mayor al Mc­don­ald.

i be­lieve most cit­i­zens as­sumed their re­cent cam­paign prom­ises to come to­gether for a more co­he­sive coun­cil was meant to ben­e­fit tax­pay­ers. it ap­pears as if it’s go­ing to be the same old rou­tine, which is to re­tain all sur­pluses and then lis­ten to the mayor brag about how much money is in the city’s bank ac­counts.

if an­thony’s mo­tion is passed, staff sug­gests the bud­get will in­crease by one per cent which, at first glance, would ap­pear to be rea­son­able. What staff fails to men­tion is that the in­crease is one per cent over last year’s bud­get fig­ures, not last year’s ac­tual fig­ures.

Since we al­ready know that last year’s bud­get fig­ures were too high by $925,000 this means the bud­get in­crease is ac­tu­ally 5.5 per cent. there is no rea­son why coun­cil can­not wait to set the bud­get un­til after the fi­nal 2018 fig­ures are known and the re­sults com­pared to ac­tual in­stead of an in­ac­cu­rate guessti­mate made 12 months ago. this would pro­vide wa­ter users with a clear pic­ture of the wa­ter de­part­ment op­er­a­tions.

re­serves are nec­es­sary to pro­tect cur­rent tax­pay­ers from un­fore­seen neg­a­tive events and are to be used to al­le­vi­ate un­ex­pected spikes in the tax bur­den aris­ing from those events.

the amount of ac­cu­mu­lated re­serves should be based on past ex­pe­ri­ences and rea­son­able es­ti­mates of the costs of pos­si­ble fu­ture harm­ful events.

Coun­cil is be­ing in­flu­enced by staff, who sug­gest that re­duc­ing bud­gets by us­ing past sur­pluses will af­fect fu­ture bud­gets since the sur­plus funds will not be avail­able for the fol­low­ing year.

this may be true in a math­e­mat­i­cal sense, but since bud­get­ing is not an ex­act sci­ence, the case may be that there is a larger sur­plus in the fol­low­ing year, which will be avail­able.

the game be­ing played by coun­cil, on the ad­vice of staff, amounts to: heads the city wins and tails the tax­pay­ers lose. this is an ex­er­cise in se­man­tics de­signed to con­fuse the pub­lic.

ad­di­tion­ally, this rea­son­ing did not seem to be a con­cern when the mayor and CFO de­cided to ap­prove $6 mil­lion in long-term bor­row­ing to re­duce gen­eral op­er­at­ing ex­penses back in 2016.

the av­er­age an­nual salary and ben­e­fit pack­age in the wa­ter and waste wa­ter de­part­ments is ap­prox­i­mately $137,000, which is a 1.6 per cent in­crease from last year. is there any­one of the opin­ion that this level of com­pen­sa­tion is rea­son­able and can con­tinue?

the way to have any hope to at­tract cit­i­zens and busi­nesses to a re­gion is to demon­strate a fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity which would make it an af­ford­able place to live and do busi­ness.

this cur­rent non­sense about pop­u­la­tion in­creases of thou­sands if we all “row in the same di­rec­tion” while at the same time ig­nor­ing ba­sic fi­nan­cial prin­ci­ples is just that. any per­son or com­pany con­sid­er­ing north Bay who was look­ing at the per­for­mances at tues­day’s meet­ing would not have been im­pressed.

D. D. Ren­nick North Bay

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