O’Brien budgets allowed Watson to easily keep his 2.5% pledge
I have been reading all the different editorials and analysis in today’s press on the 2011 city budget. The one conclusion I can make is that the budget presentation is confusing and incomplete.
Here are the articles I have found on the budget:
- The spending continues
- Police trim $2.9M from budget plans to keep taxes in check
- Riders will see changes in transit service
- Mayor unveils draft budget with 2.45% hike
- Opinion: Budget increase too much
- Sherring: Fun-fest at City Hall
- Cop hiring arrested by 2011 budget
- Budget receives big hand
- Q&A with Jim Watson
- City budget calls for 2.45% tax increase
- Labour Council Optimistic Over Budget
- Ottawa Property Tax Increase at 2.45%
What the city has presented as their budget is akin to giving you the detail of every room in a house but not telling you how the house is put together. Every committee budget is individually presented on the home page and complemented by a marketing document titled: 2011 Budget at a Glance.
I would have like to see the full budget in one document with charts that aggregate all departments. Here is the 2010 budget document and budget analysis. The consolidated budget analysis on pages 2-8 are what are missing from this year’s documents.
Anyway, cobbling together what I could and comparing it to the 2010 budget, here is some interesting analysis:
In the 2010 budget, the last approved budget of the Larry O’Brien tenure, the forecasted budget for 2011, assuming everything remains the same, would be $2.378B. In the Jim Watson budget, his proposal is for a $2.367B budget, a difference of only $11M.
Subtract from that $5M cut in the forecasted 2011 Ottawa Police Service budget and another $2M cut in the forecasted Library services budget, all Mayor Watson had to find is $4M to meet his target. Raise bus fares a bit, cut a consultant here and there and take away free lunches and presto…an austerity type budget.
So I ask you. Was this really a tough budget or could the city have done a lot more to rein in spending overall and really save taxpayers money?
David Reevely hit the nail on the head when he pointed out that operating expenses went down for the first time since amalgamation (again, this was forecasted in last year’s budget). If nothing changed, that should have resulted in a property tax decrease but capital commitments made sure that didn’t happen.
And since the Watson budget is devoid of 2012 forecasts, make note that the 2010 budget forecasted a $2.487B operating budget for 2012, a 1% increase in property taxes.