City spending under scrutiny

The City of Nanaimo is undertaking a new process this year to develop its annual budget – line by line.

The City of Nanaimo is undertaking a new process this year to develop its annual budget – a process that will see councillors and staff go through line by line to evaluate spending.

It will be time consuming and overwhelming at first, but it will give all parties involved a clear understanding of just where residents’ tax dollars are spent.

Beginning with the parks and rec budget, councillors will see statistics for the number of users in recreation facilities and how a cut in those programs would affect services.

Until now, council had simply reviewed the annual budget provided by city staff, debated a few contentious issues, but largely passed what was presented.

Now council will be crafting that budget alongside staff. Using computer software, councillors will see in real time the effect that each decision will have on services provided in Nanaimo.

This does mean that more vocal special interest groups could have more influence into what city functions receive more support, putting the onus on voters to ensure that they are choosing councillors who represent a broader population, rather than just a small segment.

The potential to get bogged down in numbers, graphs and statistics is high as council is presented with information on number of users in facilities and programs that it – surprisingly – never had before.

Municipal spending across the province – not just Nanaimo – is not sustainable, with councillors approving a regular tax increase annually to pay for services and amenities that more and more taxpayers are unable to afford.

Any opportunity that helps bring city spending further in line with what taxpayers can provide is a good thing.

At the very least, if cost savings aren’t found, councillors will know exactly where our tax dollars are invested and can provide transparency when yet another tax increase is approved.