There's a cruel but obvious irony in mayor and council asking Initiatives Prince George, Tourism Prince George and the Prince George Public Library to submit net-zero budgets for the second year in a row.
Mayor and council see fit to impose net-zero budgets on others but not on themselves.
A net-zero budget is a funding cut, since these major city organizations are being asked to use the same amount of money to conduct their business, even though the cost of doing business is always going up.
While the currently proposed 3.5 per cent property tax increase features a one per cent boost to the road rehab budget and another one per cent hike for general infrastructure improvement, that still leaves that other 1.5 per cent, which the city says is needed to maintain core services standards and to meet contractual obligations.
Surely, IPG, Tourism PG and the library also have service standards and contractual obligations not just with staff but with vendors and other business partners. The chief executives of those organizations - Heather Oland, Aiden Kelly and Allan Wilson, respectively - are being asked by the city to continue to meet those standards and obligations while finding operational savings to make up the difference.
So why can't the city task the city manager and senior city department heads to do the same?
Never mind Shari Green's campaign pledge for each city department to find up to 10 per cent savings - how about just a net-zero?
It seems even that amount is too much for mayor and council to ask for city management to meet.
Mayor and council would stand on much firmer ground if they were leading by example with their fiscal conservatism, rather than insisting others stick to net-zero but not doing the same themselves.
That's what made it so laughable when Mayor Green talked tough during Wednesday's budget meeting.
"We've been doing a core review here and we don't want them to necessarily be exempt from the exercise in their own way," she said. "Are they checking their own fiscal house and making sure that they are being able to deliver the service that needs to be provided with the dollars that we're able to afford to give them?"
How about lobbing that juicy question right back into the laps of Mayor Green and the other eight city councillors?
The short answer to Green's question when applied to municipal government is no. The city wants its three major agencies to do the same with less but it's not prepared to apply the same standard to itself. Acting city manager and corporate service director Kathleen Soltis should have been given the exact same marching orders given to Oland, Kelly and Wilson - let's have the net-zero budget and nothing else.
To add insult to injury, all three city agencies are being punished for their success in, as the mayor so eloquently put it, "keeping their own fiscal house" in order last year.
Oland shepherds the city's economic development agency's activities under budget for 2012, and she's thanked by being asked to submit another net-zero budget.
Kelly and his team at Tourism PG went out and aggressively pursued and captured further revenues. Their thanks from the city? Another net-zero budget request.
Wilson, working with his board of trustees, has shaved the library's budget of all contingency items. Furthermore, library staff are not city employees and are non-unionized. Go ahead and ask library staff when was the last time they got a pay raise. From Wilson on down, they're living in the net-zero world. Their thanks from mayor and council? Well, you get the picture.
Mayor and council are not living in that net-zero world, nor do they want to ask their own organization to live there.
It appears what's good for the gander does not apply to the goose in this case.