EDITORIAL: Finding cuts starts on Day 1

NANAIMO – Any taxpayer will cheer on a councillor who wants to save them money.

The day after Nanaimo city council adopts the financial plan bylaw, councillors Jim Kipp, Bill Bestwick and Bill McKay should bury their noses into departmental spending at the city and come up with a genuine, solid effort to find efficiencies for the 2014 budget.

They should also consider an approach to reduce spending at city hall and minimizing taxes that includes, not alienates, their colleagues.

Any taxpayer will cheer on a councillor who wants to save them money, but the work performed by these three councillors recently was distracting and disruptive. And because of the nature in which it was presented, had no chance of passing and therefore no chance of serving Nanaimo citizens.

Of the eight cutback suggestions, one was a project almost completed, another meant abandoning more than $2 million in incurred costs to save $1.4 million, and another was illegal.

What’s more, Kipp’s claim of trying to find $2.2 million in operating efficiencies (without targeting any staff positions) in a $175-million budget is inaccurate.

The operating budget is $123.2 million, of which staff salaries take up about $41 million. Property taxes amount to $89.7 million. Therefore, if the trio wants to make cuts without dismissing anybody, then they’re trying to find $2.2 million in efficiencies out of $82 million – a significantly harder task.

With that said, there is nothing wrong with thinking outside the box, as these councillors have. Government at any level is addicted to our money and spends more than we can afford. The frustration at Monday’s council meeting – two councillors threatened to “take it outside”– derived from a poor plan and politicking.

If council is interested in the welfare of taxpayers, it will band together, study the contracts and services scheduled for 2014, and begin working on a list of proposed efficiencies that have a hope of saving tax-fatigued citizens some money.