EDITORIAL: City staff sets the tone

Many residents have questioned spending levels at Vernon city hall, especially in light of the recession.

Many residents have questioned  spending levels at Vernon city hall, especially in light of the recession.

But it appears like the message is sinking in.

Staff presented council with its first look at the draft 2013 budget Friday and the tone of the document is unlike other financial plans in recent years.

“To be blunt, this is a tough budget,” said Will Pearce, chief administrative officer.

Leading the pack among priorities is cost containment. Each division has already been reviewed and with the exception of RCMP and operations, they have been told to expect their individual budgets to only rise by 0.2 per cent in 2013.

Faced with replacing $2 million in reserves that were used to enhance projects this year, administration is proposing hiking user fees or service reductions.

And the draft budget acknowledges the sad state of infrastructure, whether it is roads, sidewalks, parks or sewer lines. It’s been suggested that property taxes climb 1.9 per cent a year over a decade to begin the process of overhauling critical assets.

There’s also an acknowledgment in the budget of decreased revenue, such as provincial traffic fines.

Council members will sit down in mid-January and begin moulding the financial plan to meet their needs, and hopefully those of residents and businesses.

Tough decisions are yet to come on potential increases in taxes or fees for service. There is the reality that some non-core services may be reduced or eliminated.

But instead of previous draft budgets that began with a significant staff wish list to be pared back, administration has hit the ground running and provided the politicians with a good starting point.

The Morning Star