Editorial – The small things matter

There is an expression – if you look after the pennies, the dollars will look after themselves. For several months, staggering increases in the inflation rate have hit families were it counts most – in the wallet. First it was housing and fuel prices. Now inflationary pressure has escalated the price of nearly everything you buy – from grocery staples to clothing and beyond. Many families and individuals have to spend wiser, and figure out how to stretch those pennies and dollars further. It would be nice if local government actions reflected the realities residents are facing.

At the July 11 council meeting, unclear direction to communications staff means potentially thousands of dollars extra being spent in the future. Staff wanted to modify the existing South Dundas logo, adding multiple colours in an effort to make it more attractive. Council declined redesigning the logo a few years ago and nearly a decade ago, a previous council approved changing from a multi-colour logo to a single colour to save money. Unclear direction has opened the possibility of increased expenditures now, and in the future. Around $1,000 was spent on this, a small sum for municipal expenditure. In relation to a family budget, this is no paltry amount.

Vehicle fleet repairs are already over budget for the year at South Dundas according to a report at the same council meeting. Right now, public works is taking parts from old, out of service vehicles to reuse. Perhaps this is a practice that should have started long ago. South Dundas sold used tires from its fire equipment that had service life left. Reusing those tires on other non-fire vehicles could have lowered other expenses. Small things that can make a budget difference.

Grass cutting services in South Dundas are over budget. This is partly due to increased gasoline costs, and partly due to planning issues with when and where grass cutting should take place. Re-prioritizing high-use and low-use areas would have helped take budgetary stresses off this. Just as a family would make tough choices, municipal staff should as well.

It is not just South Dundas that is guilty of this. The United Counties of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry approved beginning the process of buying its own street-sweeper to the tune of $500,000. Reasoning that because it is difficult to secure a contractor for this service, moving it in-house is preferred. A logical step, but SDG staff already pegged the in-house cost per hour to be higher than the contracted rate. Spending more to do it yourself is not a budget choice families would make.

These examples, and many more, point to the disconnect between individual and family budgets, and that of municipal governments. A little spending here and a little spending there does not sound like much, but the questions should always be asked. Is this necessary? When family budgets must ask these questions more, governments that provide services should do the same. The small things matter.

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