Letter: Informed decisions, sound process vital for coming budget process

Oak Bay council faces tough challenges with coming budgets and priority-setting

This fall council faces the challenge of setting priorities for 2017-2018. Not easy, considering the pressure to keep taxes low enough to please you and me. From a procedural perspective it’s been common practice in Oak Bay to plan and budget for council priorities separately from the district’s core services-those related to daily operations and infrastructure maintenance.

The bulk of taxpayers’ money goes to municipal services. The budgeting process for services is not what council will discuss this coming November. That will be dealt with next year. I urge interested residents to attend spring’s Estimates meetings. Have your voice heard. Make your case solid with good information and facts.

The current ‘two-tier’ planning and budgeting model – one for council priorities and one for the provision of municipal services – is far from perfect. Since planning is done separately, council priorities can distance themselves from a broader interdepartmental plan, and both can vary from a multi-year municipal strategic plan.

Some things difficult to pin down with this approach: Where do council priorities come from? Do they spring from the implementation of OCP? Do they reflect campaign promises? Will they eventually become the base for projects planned for five years from now? Council currently juggles about nine separately priorities, all ‘in progress,’ some of which have been carried forward. How do these priorities relate to the ones to be submitted by each department during Estimates?

Setting priorities means taking one step this year, another step next year, each step built on the other. Avoiding randomness reduces duplication of efforts, saves money and moves us forward as one organized body.  Although one needs room for the unexpected, we all know that decisions made out of the blue often result in regretful consequences for years to come. A clear example is how capital priorities have been handled. They have significant financial impact over a number of years – now more than ever with the Uplands sewer separation endeavour. An integrated approach between council priorities and the whole municipality would be one in which council would prioritize an asset management strategy. Capital projects will likely require tough decisions during Estimates next year and beyond – a solid asset management plan would help council make wiser decisions, plan for the future and save taxpayers’ money.

Lastly, council must strive to make informed decisions in November. It’s vital that staff provides financial data, performance measures, historical spending and trends on future operations in an easily understood format. Councillors are politicians. Their decisions will affect the taxes that we pay.

James Sultanum

Oak Bay

 

 

Just Posted

Victoria’s little free libararies get 5,000th book

Volunteers have been dropping off books around Greater Victoria since 2017

Oak Bay brothers scoop 10 kg of poop from park paths in 30 mins

Family picks up dog poo to give back, inspire others to be more responsible

Shamrocks hold 1-0 lead over Burrards

Bob Heyes said it is going to be a different game on Sunday in Maple Ridge

Vancouver Island woman to attempt historic swim across Juan de Fuca Strait today

Ultra-marathon swimmer Susan Simmons to attempt to swim from Victoria to Port Angeles and back

‘We will not forget:’ Thousands attend funeral fallen Fredericton officers

Hundreds of officials marched in the parade, which included massed band, several police motorcycles

Smoky skies like a disappearing act for sights, monuments around B.C.

Haze expected to last the next several days, Environment Canada said

Five things to do in Greater Victoria this weekend

Puppy yoga, horses, cars, water guns and more make up this weekend’s list of events to see

Canadians react to death of former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan at age 80

Nobel Peace Prize-winning former UN leader died early Saturday following a short illness

44 drownings so far this year in B.C.

Lifesaving Society urging caution to prevent deaths while on lakes, oceans and in pools

Some of B.C.’s air quality levels worse than Jodhpur, India

Okanagan, northern B.C. seeing some of the worst air quality globally

VIDEO: Ground crews keep a close eye on largest B.C. wildfire

Originally estimated to be 79,192 hectares, officials said more accurate mapping shows smaller size

Canadians believe in immigration but concerned about asylum seekers: study

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada paid for study to understand Canadian attitudes

Most Read