The majority – 87% – of this year’s requests were approved, either as additions to the base budget or draws on reserves. We need to be more disciplined about saying no and focusing on need to haves, especially in light of the current economic climate.
Though the budget includes several need-to-have items – our contribution to the hospital redevelopment, money for infrastructure, the new Alton community centre and library, and enhanced transit service – it also includes almost $2 million in “nice-to-haves”.
Given the economic climate and the potential increase for necessary items, our budget must reflect priorities and need to haves.
We must do better than a 6.5% increase, and that will require some tough choices.
There are steps we can take, both large and small, short term and long term, that will preserve what we love about the community, and make changes that will make our city even better
In March, city council approved a budget that increases our funding for infrastructure and our hospital, resulting in a city tax increase of 3.29%.
My Take: During the election campaign, many of you told me you wanted the city to rein in spending, focus on priorities, and more closely align spending to economic realities. City taxes have increased by a whopping 75% since 2000 – about 5.6% per year, while our population has only grown by 18%, and inflation by 23%. This budget signals a new focus on fiscal restraint while maintaining or enhancing core priorities for our hospital and seniors.
The proposed capital and current (or operations) budget for 2011 will address some, but not all of these challenges. Staff are proposing a tax increase of 2.5%. That includes a dedicated .5% infrastructure levy. Council has also recently learned there is a sizable surplus from the 2010 budget, which we’ll learn more about next week, when staff bring forward a report on the amount, source and proposed disposition of the surplus.
During the campaign I pledged to rein in tax increases, and focus on infrastructure and core services. I’m very concerned about our infrastructure renewal gap and will suggest that some of the surplus be directed toward that, in addition to looking at redirecting funds from other capital and operating to infrastructure.
City Hall is increasing taxes at 3 times the rate of inflation to pay for nice-to-have capital projects like the pier. City Hall needs to limit spending: and ideas on how we could rein it in.