Office of Councillor Jeff Leiper, Kitchissippi Ward, Ottawa | (613) 580-2485  |
Responsive image

Budget "efficiencies" lack needed transparency

You are here

Today, City staff presented a proposed 2016 budget that would keep the municipal tax increase to 2%. I and my colleagues have already begun combing through the document to see how this will affect the services you receive. We know that the City will cut the equivalent of 50 full-time staff to make the numbers work, dip into our reserves, as well as institute a number of cost-saving initiatives to balance the budget.

I and others had hoped that we’d have a clear explanation in the budget to be tabled how those savings would be achieved, and their impact on the services you value. Unfortunately, there’s no accompanying explanation except at a very high level. It will be very difficult for members of the public to understand how these savings were found, or whether they agree that those are immaterial to the quality of services.

For example, operational efficiencies in the parks, building and grounds budget of $654,000 appear to be related to spending on material and services in the general manager’s office, but the public has been provided with no further information. There is a $110,000 salary savings somewhere in the department as part of those broader savings, and a reduction of one full-time-equivalent position, but no indication of what might be being cut or how that will affect service delivery. It seems to be related to the cultural services department within parks & rec, but I can’t tell.

We’re going to need a lot of answers between now and when the budgets are debated at committee to understand whether this budget is as advertised: a balance between a low tax increase and no impact to services. I don’t feel comfortable that we have enough information to determine whether we’re putting our future ability to do public works at risk given how much of our reserves we’re spending.

It’s disappointing that we don’t have more information up front and in writing from staff about how they’ve found savings to balance the budget. You’ve told me in no uncertain terms that there are services like parks, forestry, by-law enforcement and winter road/path maintenance that you don’t want to see jeopardized. I hope in the very short-term to be able to pass on the information you need to make those determinations, and to shape your participation in the budget debates.

Read the budget documents here.


Posted November 12, 2015