It’s budget time in South Dundas and the process – at a government level rather than a personal level – is quite eye-opening. Until Monday, when South Dundas started budget deliberations, I’d never been to a municipal budget meeting.
For those of us who try to live by a budget in our personal lives, it is very similar, yet also very different. In very basic terms, it comes down to calculating expected revenue minus expected (necessary) expenses and determining what should or could be done with the leftover… if there is any.
In case you haven’t guessed already, I’m not a financial genius and numbers aren’t really my thing. (I prefer words.) I do, however, understand the basic concepts of financial planning and budgeting. From what I could see on Monday, our township council, with the daunting task of planning our financial future, is committed to doing what they think is fair and what they think is best for South Dundas.
In personal finances and budgeting, most people only have to consider themselves and their own family when making choices. Municipally, the township council must take into consideration department requests, public requests, residential tax increases and the financial future of the township itself.
I have one car to budget for… the township has to consider vehicles for the roads department, the fire department, the recreation department, and so on. Nothing is simple. How much will a new vehicle cost? Is it necessary? Is one department more needy than another?
These are just some of the questions council is faced with when making spending decisions at budget time. If they say ‘yes’ too much in one area, how much will they have to cut in another area in order to keep residential tax increases at an ‘acceptable’ percentage?
In an effort to push the township forward, how much can council comfortably spend if it means going in debt? Will it be worth it?
Budget time, more than any other time, I think, shows just how much courage it takes to be a political representative. One bad choice and council will be ‘taking heat’ for months, possibly years to come. (For council members who may be reading this… no pressure!)
All that’s really left for me to say on the subject is this: I’m really glad it’s not me! (In the ‘hot seat.’) -S.C.