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.