At a time when taxes may surge into double digits, a pair of Calgary aldermen will be asking city council to fine tune its spending habits to mitigate the potential damage to property owner pocketbooks.

Ric McIver and Jim Stevenson will table a motion at Monday’s council meeting to adopt a zero-based budgeting model, forcing all city departments to identify their costs and start right from square one for the 2009-2012 budget planning process.

Zero-based budgeting, through a comprehensive departmental review, takes into account every dollar of revenue and lowers the budget in one area to compensate for areas where costs need to increase.


Under zero-based budgeting, every program is treated as new and based on detailed expenses, may provide a view of what an area needs to cost, rather than just what it has traditionally incurred.

The plan is, Stevenson said, to leave no stone unturned in an effort to shake loose extraneous spending and tighten the purse strings at City Hall to take some of the sting out of the looming hikes.

“I don’t think we should be worrying about it being too much work,” Stevenson said, noting the application of zero-based budgeting wouldn’t be an easy transition. “This is a way to save the taxpayer a few dollars and it’s important that it’s a thorough process, we need to find every area we can where we can save money or make a cut because we’re really behind the eight-ball here.”

McIver, who has lobbied for a zero-based approach for the past six years, thinks it should be a “no-brainer” move as it’s the only way the city can properly address its spending needs while simultaneously carving out any extraneous cash expenditures that may have simply been grandfathered in from year to year because the city has failed to maintain ongoing scrutiny in its accounting practices.

“It’s time to do the hard part of the job,” McIver said.

“The easy part is going on a wild spending spree, the hard part is finding those areas where we have to cut back or eliminate.”

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