Fallout from municipal budget deliberations is inevitable

Mike Jiggens

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It’s got to be a thankless job for our elected officials during budget deliberations. It’s pretty much a no-win scenario for them. Services get scaled way back or are cut entirely, and no matter how much our local council tries to keep a lid on things, it’s often still not good enough.

The people want all the services they’ve enjoyed for so long to continue, but they also want a minimal tax increase. Sometimes it’s impossible to deliver on both. This is when tough decisions need to be made. Closing an arena is a tough call. So is selling off such landmarks as the Teeterville Museum and Teeterville Women’s Institute, not to mention slashing $210,000 from the tourism and economic development department.

Jobs are often lost when big cuts are made, negatively contributing to the human side of making these hard choices. When all is ratified and homeowners are aware of how much more their tax bill is going to be and are no longer able to enjoy the same services they had previously taken for granted, that’s when it can potentially get ugly for our elected officials. They are apt to be inundated with phone calls or stopped on the street and given an earful.

It’s virtually impossible to please everyone. The town whose arena is selected to close may complain the other towns are getting preferential treatment. The same sentiments would exist if another town’s library were to be shut down. Demographics are used to aid in the decision-making process, but the people in the affected areas are usually so upset that they don’t buy it.

There have been countless examples in some jurisdictions where significant money needs to be saved by cutting back on either sports or the arts. One group ends up fit to be tied, and it’s usually the arts people.

Those who run for public office presumably do their homework before throwing their hats in the ring and understand that the budgeting process is part of the job. It takes a special type of character to be prepared to deal with this every year. Not only is a solid understanding of math imperative, so, too, is knowing what services are utilized to the fullest and which ones are not. Those that aren’t tend to be the first to go, in spite of the outcry of core groups of longtime supporters whose numbers may be starting to thin.

The fallout from municipal budget deliberations is inevitable. When it’s an 8.4 per cent tax increase, the fallout is likely to be that much more profound.

Not everyone can win, but elected officials try their best to ensure the wins remain greater than the losses.

Both our mayor and the county’s interim general manager of corporate services have hinted other shoes may drop in the next while. Stay tuned.

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