Editorial – Justification needed

The decision by South Dundas council to support increasing user fees for adult recreation and hire new employees has not been a popular one. One of the primary bones of contention has been the lack of justification for both actions. Justification is something that is rarely ever made clear, but should be part of every decision made by any level of government. Why decisions are being made, and by whom, is as important as the decision itself.

Why is South Dundas’ Parks and Recreation department asking for user groups to pay for renting baseball diamonds? That is a good example of something that should be clearly justified to users and citizens. Are there increased costs involved with operating the diamonds? Has there been an unforeseen repair that needs to be paid for? How does administration justify charging rates for facilities fundraised for, and maintained by volunteers? If charging rent, would volunteers be expected to still chalk the lines on the diamond, or would Parks and Recreation staff perform that task? In the end, council decided to nix charging rent for youth games, but not for adults. But it’s the adult citizens who already paid taxes to support these facilities. Is charging a fee justified, or double-dipping?

The same can be asked regarding the hiring of three new administration staff. What is the justification? The background presented in the council agenda provides a lot of government babblespeak about two-step plans for staffing. It fails to say clearly why there is a need for nearly all the positions. The important questions such as who does the job now; why can’t that person handle that role any further; would training be a better way of handling it; how do you pay for these new positions; all remain vague. What we do know is that in last year’s budget, every $71,251 of spending represented a one per cent increase on property taxes. So those three new positions could increase property taxes by over two per cent, unless savings can be found elsewhere.

If an item presented by administration is vague, why isn’t council publicly asking for clarification? If council understands the full picture, that isn’t apparent to the viewing public.

Having a clear justification for a decision, all decisions, provides one more point of disclosure and accountability for government to the citizens they serve. Knowing why actions are taken, why they are needed, and how they will be paid for, means citizens have transparency from those responsible for spending their money. Transparent actions means citizens can trust that those who are elected on their behalf are truly representing them.

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