This is why just saying you’re going with zero increases or are going to freeze spending isn’t necessarily a great idea.
Sure it sounds good, particularly in an election year.
Nobody wants to hear that they’re going to be hit with a higher tax bill.
But without knowing what that big zero means in practical terms, that’s all it is: a soundbite.
Zero increases, in some cases, aren’t necessarily even the responsible thing to do.
What if you have vital equipment that is failing?
What about costs that are going up outside of your control? What about opportunities that, if you don’t take them now, will be a huge loss forever after and have future generations cursing your name? We sympathize with the Cowichan Valley Regional District directors who are now just beginning to come face to face with the reality of such a directive as they begin their budget discussions.
Of course we expect the folks on this local government body to act in a responsible manner with our tax dollars.
We think it’s a good idea to instruct staff, as they are putting the budget drafts together, to try to hit as close to the zero increase mark as they can.
They should be made aware that big increases for departments are unlikely to be approved.
We share Director Ian Morrison’s concern about the consequences of not building operational reserves.
As he states, this type of thing is designed to "smooth out the bumps" that are inevitable in the road of local government.
We don’t want to see the regional district left scrambling. It’s also not a great idea to starve a budget one year only to have to inflict big increases the next to try to make up for shortfalls.
That’s just robbing Peter to pay Paul – or possibly early campaigning.
That’s more opportunistic than prudent.
There will always be those who don’t want to pay for anything and will accuse the district of needless waste.
But we believe most people are smart enough to understand prudent budgeting.