It has been interesting to watch the theatrics this past couple of weeks after the town announced at a council meeting that it was short $3 million dollars. It was quite a surprise to see the town’s treasurer come before council with the news, but none of the details. Exactly two days later at the General Committee meeting more on the story was provided.
That didn’t stop the old political elite from characterizing the problem as “missing” money, almost inferring that someone had stolen the cash. To be clear, not a cent of the money was missing, stolen or otherwise manipulated.
The council of the day decided to spend $42 million dollars on projects to support the G8. The town’s portion of this spend would be nearly $13 million.
Former Mayor Claude Doughty came before council last week to explain the expenditures to those around the table. Doughty told council that of the $13 million, council debentured $9 million and took $1 million from the levy. The balance was financed from the town’s bank account.
So what’s the problem one could ask?
Well, if you’re looking to discredit a former mayor, you could use the situation to tarnish his record or imply that there is some illegality with spending taxpayer’s money that way. The decision was that of the council of the day and not one single person.
The thing that gets me is why it took so long to discover that the “missing” money was “unfunded” and why the word “unfunded” wasn’t explained to the public as a clerical oversight. Four years is a long time not to notice that the money wasn’t in the correct column in a financial report, because, that’s really what we are talking about. The town used its own money rather than borrowing it – and someone forgot to account for it on paper. Doughty says that the town should have written a by-law to cover the expense – to say that we’re taking the money to pay for a portion of the G8 projects rather than borrow.
So now the problem has been solved, Doughty owned up and said he will take responsibility for not having a by-law enacted after having used the money. Some people will continue to say he pulled a fast one and there isn’t much anyone can say to dissuade them. I don’t remember seeing a mayor or council that knows all the procedural requirements to run a council meeting, that’s why there is so many administration staff in council chambers. Even so, apparently, mistakes are made and it seems that the town has saved money by not borrowing the $3 million.
What’s alarming about the situation is our current council’s rush to refill the town’s reserves, saying that they will commit to an increase of $200,000 in the 2016 budget. That’s a 2 per cent increase off the top – without inflation on the current budget – meaning that if a status quo budget for next year cost taxpayers the same as this year, then in 2016 we are talking about a 5% increase before any new spending.
The town’s ability to tax is always mentioned in town hall, as if they feel they’re not spending enough, I hear it at every meeting I attend. There are always new things being pitched by staff that could wait or not be spent.
It’s time for this council to reign in their spending. Don’t commit to increases for 2016 until you begin your budget deliberations. Its summer, and six months from now you’ll be starting that process, so what’s the rush?
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