It’s civic budget time again. This signals yet another round of percentage, percentage, who can guess the percentage tax increase. We will likely start with an absurdly high number put forth by the city administration and then see it reduced by our guardians of the public purse. One thing for sure is tax rates are unlikely to be going down.
So where is all our money going? It’s been suggested that the cost of policing be included with our tax notices. Not a bad idea since it accounts for about 17 per cent of the operating budget. I doubt very much that anyone who can read about the stabbings, muggings and thefts that seem to plague this city would want to see that number reduced. But as one city councillor has suggested, why not include more information than that? And better still, why not show how much we are paying is increasing year over year?
Last year’s budget shows that in 2009, employee costs amounted for 56 per cent of the $1.6-billion operating budget.
That’s a big whack of change. If you think the city’s role is to create good paying jobs with your tax dollars, then you’re not going to have a problem with that. However, when you look at the fact that only 14 per cent of the budget goes to providing the services we expect from the city, you might want to rethink your position.
In addition to providing services, there are a whole lot of other things the city does that cost us money and provide a dubious return on investment. The edmontonstories.ca website, of which the mayor is so proud, is but one example. Last year it cost us $1 million and received 116,000 hits. If you do the math, that turns out to be $8.60 per hit. Next year it is projected to cost an additional $1 million.
Doing the real work of the city can be boring. So it’s not surprising our municipal mavens come up with interesting, if unproductive, ways to spend our money. Let’s look at edmontonstories.ca from this perspective. A first-year constable earns about $50,000 per year.
The $2 million the mayor thinks is a good idea to sink into a story site would pay the salaries of 40 new officers for one year. What’s going to make you sleep better at night, stories or officers?