Budget Committee Needs Improving

Chris Mackie, member of MIRANET’s Municipal Finance Committee reflects on the actions of the City of Mississauga’s Budget Committee.

What’s wrong with the City’s Budget Committee?  It’s not working effectively.

Councilors listen to staff presentations and occasionally ask questions.  Most Councilors appear poorly prepared.  Some clearly have not studied the material included on the agenda.  About three regularly raise issues and question staff.

The committee’s poor performance worsens when reports containing big ticket items are adopted without debate.  This occurred last week when $65 million was added to the Mississauga Fire & Emergency Services (MFES) ten-year capital budget without discussing the report.  Written questions submitted by MIRANET did not appear to have been considered by committee members. The MFES report was adopted without discussion.

What is wrong with this scenario? By not discussing this and other reports Budget Committee is allowing senior staff to make decisions for it. That’s not good enough.  It’s unfair to taxpayers.  It’s not good governance. Councilors are elected to make these decisions, not staff.  Budget Committee should review all staff recommendations that impact the budget and property taxes.  Budget Committee should be the gatekeeper of the City’s finances. It is not.  Finance staff are.

Council has a fiduciary responsibility for the well being of the City.  Several Councilors ignore their responsibility and only take an interest in issues that affect their ward.

This is not good enough for Canada’s sixth largest City.  The Committee needs to improve its performance.

Here’s a suggestion.  Holding Budget Committee immediately following a four-hour General Committee is not a great idea.  Brains are tired.  Improve the committee’s scheduling.  Budget Committee is too important to be treated as an appendix to General Committee.

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3 comments on “Budget Committee Needs Improving
  1. David MacLean says:

    Chris Mackie highlights an important issue for all Mississaugans. Our City Budget is not taken seriously enough by our Councillors or Budget Committees, and is out of control. I do believe that City staff actually do run this city, and what city staff want is always more money for their departments and projects.

    I am a senior living in Clarkson. I have seen my property tax bills soar for more than a decade now at rates over twice the rate of inflation – while my income sources are tied strictly to inflation. The key driver of that “twice the rate of inflation” increase is the City of Mississauga portion of our tax bill. The City has seen fit to increase its budget at an average of three to four times the rate of inflation every year for more than a decade. As the City portion of our total tax bill is around 30% of the total tax we pay, the City’s impact is averaged into the overall bill, and they are able to hide their massive annual increases.

    (By the way, at a deputation to Mississauga City Council on behalf of the Mississauga Seniors Council some years ago, as I described this untenable City tax growth for seniors, Mayor Crombie asked City Manager at the time, Janice Baker, if the City’s budget was rising faster than the rate of inflation. Ms. Baker replied, incorrectly, that the City’s increase was always nearly in line with inflation. So City Councillors chose to believe her, feeling they are managing City Budgets appropriately. The actual City budget increase was 3 to 4 times the rate of inflation every year. I am sure the City Manager knew this. She was simply protecting her budgets and controlling the Councillors.)

    Again for the coming years spending, the City’s budget increase is nearly 3% – that is more than three times the rate of inflation. The out-of-control City spending continues….

    One of the tricks the City uses to hike its budget every year is to use last year’s budget as a starting point. i.e. if a certain department had $xxx last year, how many additional dollars should they have this year !! An alternative approach is to start afresh every year. This is called zero-based budgeting. Have every department justify every dollar it needs for the next year. Only then might we end up with an accountable, and possibly LOWER budget at the end of the day.

    Chris, on behalf of all fixed income seniors in this City, please keep pressure on our City Committees and Councillors to control our budgets within acceptable growth rates (inflation increases at most!).

    David MacLean
    Executive Member, Mississauga Seniors Council

    Liked by 1 person

    • David thanks for your advocacy on behalf of seniors including myself.

      The property tax increase is impacted by the annual property assessment by MPAC, in addition to the budget increases of the City and Region. Anyone living in Clarkson or Port Credit is likely to see an additional increase to their property tax.

      I like your suggestion of zero based budgeting instead of the present incremental increase based upon the previous year. I believe a zero based budget would result in improved accountability.

      Thank you for your comments.

      Chris Mackie

      Like

  2. Applewood Hills & Heights Residents Association says:

    We thank you for this update and your ongoing efforts in best representing all residents of Mississauga.

    Be safe & healthy. Kind Regards, Applewood Hills & Heights Residents’ Association (AHHRA) applewoodhhra.simplesite.com/

    This e-mail may not be forwarded to anyone for any reason without express written permission of the authors. If you wish to unsubscribe your email from the Applewood residents email group, please email your request to applewoodresidents@gmail.com for this to be done.

    *Applewood Hills & Heights in Mississauga*

    On Mon, May 10, 2021 at 1:12 PM Mississauga Residents’ Associations Network wrote:

    > MIRANET posted: ” Chris Mackie, member of MIRANET’s Municipal Finance > Committee reflects on the actions of the City of Mississauga’s Budget > Committee. What’s wrong with the City’s Budget Committee? It’s not working > effectively. Councilors listen to staff presentati” >

    Like

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