Coun. Bill Bestwick’s intent to reduce the city’s operational spending budget by $2.2 million to result in a zero per cent increase has merit, but he might want to reconsider his approach on how to sell his proposal.
The veteran councillor – along with councillors Jim Kipp and Bill McKay – strayed from regular city council protocol by excluding council colleagues to create their own list of departmental cuts.
They dropped their list of cuts on staff and council Monday moments before council was to vote on the first three readings of this year’s tax rate bylaw, a necessity as, because of provincial legislation, there is only one more regular meeting to adopt the bylaw prior to the May 15 deadline.
From a taxpayer point of view, harnessing what many watchdog organizations believe to be out-of-control municipal spending is welcome. This year’s budget is $15 million more than last year’s, with much of that due to increases in police, firefighter and city staff wages and benefits.
In the real world, also known as the public sector, wages have been stagnant since 2008, and taxpayer fatigue is a reality – household incomes have not kept pace with the rising municipal budget. Any increase ultimately takes a chunk out of disposable income or, in some cases, money that pays the bills.
If Bestwick truly wants to rein in spending, building a strong argument by going through each department, itemizing what needs to be cut and why, and then lobbying his council colleagues to vote in favour of his recommendations would truly serve Nanaimo taxpayers well.
Instead, a stick has been stuck in the spokes of the tax bylaw process, the team effect that council has historically employed has been fractured, and the property tax rate reduction to zero per cent that taxpayers would like to see has no chance of passing.
Residents deserve a better effort.