Budget justification for City spending often sorely lacking

Kamloops Daily News
January 28, 2013 01:00 AM

The news story Council Tries To Trim Tax Increase (The Daily News, Jan. 16) certainly does not provide real confidence that council is doing much, if anything, to seriously control the costs of running Kamloops.

Each year at budget time, all we ever hear is how much taxes are going to increase, never about how costs are either controlled or better still, reduced to reflect a level of improved efficiency.

The request for yet more new and expensive equipment coupled with more staff is in my view totally unsupportable based on the "justification" offered.

Taking just one example from the report, the corporate services and community safety director's "justification" for the purchase of a $475,000 Hydrovac truck. The claim the truck will have a payback in two years with a $100 per hour savings over contracted services is to say the least questionable. Even rudimentary math by someone on council would ring alarm bells.

For the moment, ignoring factors such as cost of finance and the ongoing annual cost of additional staff, to suggest that the City needs and wants to operate a Hydrovac truck, or any equipment for that matter, for at least 2,375 hours per year, or 45.67 hours each week for 52 weeks of the year, should raise serious doubts by council on the management of this City.

Remember the above hasn't address the impost on taxpayers for the increased staff being requested, nor the not-insignificant cost of finance to purchase the truck. The only real outcome seems to be to permanently raise the tax level of running the City. Not a justifiable result!

The supposed "justification" by the "director" raises an even more serious question. Why has the city been spending in the order of $237,500 per year on contracted Hydrovac services over the past years?

It seems that the City managers only see the annual budget process as merely a means to attempt to increase both the size and cost of their departments at the expense of the hard pressed taxpayers, many of whom, I remind you, are on fixed incomes.

Council needs to make managers more accountable for their actions by thoroughly evaluating the outcomes from previous decisions on equipment and staff. For example, what efficiencies (cost benefits to taxpayers) resulted from the purchase last year of thousands of dollars of computers to be installed in staff vehicles?

It is time that council - rather than as they do each year, look to "minimizing" their first estimate of tax increases to supposedly convince the hard-pressed taxpayers that they are doing a good job - take a more proactive role to evaluate expenditures and more importantly investigate and implement efficiencies to reduce the overall cost of running this City.



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