Despite a narrow rejection of Coun. Eric Bergeron’s latest attempt to dive into the line-by-line details of the city’s operating budget, here’s hoping he and the four colleagues who supported him come to the table Monday armed with as many rational questions as they can.
The resolution was another attempt at getting at what Bergeron failed to get in 2020, when on the second-last day of scheduled budget deliberations he asked for all department managers to appear the following day to explain changes in their operating budgets and respond to a list of over 90 questions he had been compiling. His colleagues balked at the 10th-hour request, though they did allow him to ask as many questions as he wanted to the following day.
The goal here, if we take it at face value, is to get a better understanding of the city’s operating budget. Which, for those who only see government excess in every direction they turn, and think every cent of property tax is being wasted on things they don’t personally care about, could be a useful thing. My feeling is – and this has been supported by the annual audits, and the long-term financial plan and others – Cornwall’s budget is not leaking wasted dollars at every seam.
Cornwall council defeats request for detailed review of operating budget
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Feeling for the lone dissenter on the 2020 Cornwall budget
The claim is changes in operating budgets happen without enough explanation or review. Which has me wondering if I’m reading the same draft budget document these council members are reading.
Throughout the first 60 to 70 pages of this year’s draft budget, there are the budget charts showing the planned expense for 2021, the 2020 budget amount, the 2020 actuals through to Nov. 30, and any variance between 2020 approved and 2021 draft budget. On each summary page, the department manager has already offered a comment on any changes in staffing being proposed, variances in the purchases of goods and services, and other substantive changes.
To suggest there isn’t sufficient explanation of operating budget changes from year-to-year suggests a lack of confidence in the very explanations provided in the document. So then is it questioning the changes themselves, or the confidence in those proposing them? Or are the questions just for show, to make redundant points?
I hope plenty of rational questions are asked on each of these disclosed changes. Not, for example, questions on increases to salaries and benefits lines for existing employees. Council ratified the collective agreements generating those increases, so it shouldn’t need a back-to-basics explanation on them for each department, every year.
Bergeron and his allies can accomplish the same thing they were hoping this defeated resolution, just by asking the right questions, at the right time.