• Multi-year Budgets and Provincial Uncertainty

    I recently had the opportunity to speak with London Free Press columnist Chip Martin about the city’s next multi-year budget cycle.

    Already the Ford Government in Ontario has downloaded or cut services that will add at least $4 million to the city’s budget costs. Staff have already told council just to stay on track next year we need to raise property taxes another 2.7%.  And of course we have a federal election looming this year that could result in more changes to affordability for Londoners. That concerns me a great deal. Seniors on CPP and OAS benefits aren’t able to keep pace with those kind of increases and stay in their homes. The rising costs of groceries, hydro bills, and everything else is making it harder and harder for people to make ends meet, and property taxes are the LEAST FAIR form of taxes possible.

    People should make no mistake, decisions of senior levels of government have profound financial impacts on municipal governance.

    In several cases, like police, city council doesn’t even have a choice. The Ontario government controls the Police Services Act that regulates the standards our police have to meet, but the City of London has to pay the bill, we aren’t legally allowed to say “NO”.  That makes it hard for council to keep costs down.

    Our council has to approach a multi-year budget in a different way than London’s council has done since the multi-year budget process was introduced. Core costs like roads, water, sewers, are easy to build in those costs. It’s a solid foundation to plan from.

    When it comes to the “nice to haves”, Council MUST recognize that just because we planned for or we budgeted for something, doesn’t mean it is carved in stone. In past budget debates Councillors have gotten stuck on the idea that we must do something because we had previously planned to do it. 

    The “Ribbon of the Thames” project at the Forks is a great example of that. Yes, a past council planned for something and set a bit of money aside, the reality has changed and there is a $4+million funding gap. The responsible thing to do is say, we’re shelving this plan, it’s the fiscally responsible thing to do. But so far Council has been reluctant to accept that truth.

    Council has to exercise its political will to accept changes as part of the ongoing process.

    Chip Martin’s full column on this topic can be read at:

    Martin: Multi-year budgeting may not withstand Ford onslaught

     

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