Two weeks ago, I wrote a letter to this newspaper comparing the Prince George city administration's spending habits to the My 600-lb Life TV show. In this comparison, our city council was identified as an enabler, allowing the poor spending behaviour of city administration to continue.
To help our councillors understand that alternatives to their present enabling behaviour are available, I sent an email to all of our city councillors offering recommendations for change that would decrease costs and develop a strategy for more effective spending. I have had acknowledgment of my email from only one councillor and nothing at all from the remainder.
Here is the email I sent:
I see the ongoing lack of control of both operating and capital spending by the city as the number one issue for our council in 2019.
Over the past few years this spending has resulted in higher than necessary property tax increases. There appears to be little appreciation on the part of council as to the impact of increasing taxes on the local economy. I find this situation alarming.
As our taxes go up, our disposable income goes down. When this happens taxpayers have fewer dollars to spend in our city and the cost of living in Prince George goes up. As our council, it is my view that it is your responsibility to manage costs on an annual basis, however your spending behaviour leaves me to conclude that you believe that your present spending is necessary and appropriate. It isn't.
There are cost management processes and tools available to help the city reduce its costs and lower its capital spend, but we need all of you on our city council to understand that the city's current spending profile is not necessary and that there are ways to change without significant decreases in services.
Providing the most cost effective governance will be challenging, but it will lead to a more economically healthy Prince George and it will have long term beneficial effects for our city.
Following are recommendations that will lead to a reduction of our annual operating and capital spend:
Recast your 2019 budget to 2018 levels.
Adopt policy where budgetary increases beyond two per cent require a referendum.
Reduce your forecasted capital spend to reflect no more than a two per cent increase going out five years.
Eliminate reserve funds.
Develop a forward liability cost curve that includes pension liabilities.
Develop capital project execution criteria that includes performance expectations.
Adopt a root cause analysis approach to capital project schedule and cost overruns.
Employ a third party to audit both the Willow Cale bridge project and the sinkhole project.
Freeze City employment at 2018 levels.
There are effective budgeting and spending alternatives that have been used for many years in the private sector that will enable lower operating costs by our city but nothing can happen until our city council determines that correcting its current spending behaviour is a priority.