For anyone who opted to put themselves through the ordeal of watching Chatham-Kent council’s budget committee at work last week, we have a suggestion for you: try self-water boarding instead.
All joking aside, the process is fatiguing to say the least. We don’t blame several spectators who we saw were fighting to stay awake during the deliberations last week, or the woman who brought her knitting to keep her hands and mind busy during some of the slower moments.
Council at budget time is nothing, if not predictable. It typically adds to the budget over the start of the first night, accepts the police budget as tabled, and then goes through spurts of suction where they seek to remove chunks of tax increases from said budget.
This year, the bump up didn’t really occur at the outset; there did not seem to be any/many pet projects. It could be argued a crosswalk at Naahii Ridge Elementary School in Ridgetown, a $60,000 item, was a pet project, but it was covered in one-time funding so it did not add to the bottom line.
To council’s credit, one-time items were the target of one-time funding, often coming from reserves. In the past, council has covered operating expenses from reserves, pushing the tax increase a year down the road.
Overall, this was another budget where councillors got bogged down in the minutiae time after time, losing focus on various issues, only to be led by the nose by administration at times.
Top management at the Civic Centre is well versed in how to lead council to administration’s desired destinations, and council seems only too willing to be led.
Items questioned by councillors were often too crucial to consider cutting, according to management. And council listened, pulling back from possible cuts time and time again.
Chatham Coun. Doug Sulman commented midway through the slow process that “to get to 2.1 per cent, we have to reduce this budget by $4.8 million. I don’t see us moving anywhere on this very efficiently.”
He was right.
And when council got through its budget binder, the committee simply stopped.
Apparently no one had the stomach to try to dig deeper to find savings.