Citizen’s opinion on the Town budget

I also noticed there were no comparisons between 2014 budget allocations and how much was actually spent in fiscal year 2013.

Dear editor,

I reviewed the Information Package prepared by the Town of Golden on the 2014 Town Budget and Five Year Plan and noticed that “Proceeds from Borrowing” indicated a steep escalation in 2016 and 2017 of more than $2.5 million.  There is no explanation for this increase in the package.

I also noticed there were no comparisons between 2014 budget allocations and how much was actually spent in fiscal year 2013.

This kind of information is in the finance committee working papers which I obtained.

In the working papers the Proceeds from Borrowing increase in 2016/17 is explained partially by the fact that there are two line items for “B to B Dike Repair” totaling $1.2 million.   Since Chris Hambruch had said in his letter to the Star that the “controversial Bridge to Bridge project” was “not being considered at all” I asked about this allocation at the budget consultation meeting.

The explanation is that the “$1.2 million is in as a “marker” item in the budget to remind the Town administration that there is a liability which they believe will have to be addressed at some point in the near future.   The item has apparently not been actually costed  or engineered.

The working papers have a column called 2013 Projected Actuals – estimating what will actually be spent in budget year 2013.  The total for General Operations is $5,560,086.00.

The budget for 2014 for general operations is $6,009,738.00.   So the Town is proposing to spend $450,000.00 more for general operations in 2014 than it actually spent last year –  an increase of 8 per cent.

This figure was a concern to me.   Why was there such an increase?   Chris Hambruch said in his letter that the elimination of GAI funding and staff reductions “reduced overall staffing costs by $234,000.00,” yet spending on General Operations is increasing by 8 per cent.

Protective services is up by $140,000.00 which is an increase of 45 per cent.    Planning and Development is up by $80,000.00 or 37 per cent; recreation services by $72,000.00 and Environmental Services by $70,000.00.

To put these increases into perspective, a 1 per cent increase in property taxes would yield the Town about $44,000.00.

The senior town staff  had a good grasp of these numbers and were able to answer many of my questions.   The largest operational budget is General Government Services at $2,185,242 which is up by $188,000.00.     $170,000.00 of this is not operational spending but is going into reserves.

The increase in protective services is going to a program to work on fire guarding the Town by eliminated combustibles, such as brush etc., from the perimeter.  The Planning Department increase is not for an additional salaried position which would have been a concern.   The largest allocation is for $40,000.00 to rewrite the Official Community Plan.

CORE is pleased that the Town is replenishing Reserves, and that there are no plans in the budget to replace the three staff positions that have been shed, as our group has said all along that the Town was spending too much on managerial positions.  Still, one would have thought that with staff savings of $234,000.00 overall operational spending should not be increasing by 8 per cent.

The message is, as always, that close stewardship of the available resources must always be a priority for Council.   It is obvious that spending at the 2014 budgeted amount is unsustainable unless revenue sources other than property taxes are available to fund the increases.

 

 

Bruce Fairley