The final numbers were put to bed last night, with a total operating budget of 170 million dollars, including a property tax increase of 1.5 per cent, and previously, considerably higher increases in both water and sewer rates.
There are two budgets of course...the operating, which keeps the city going on a day to day basis, and the capital budget, which involves those projects being built around the city ( that totals 70 million dollars)
I won't go into how Waterloo's increases compare to other municipalities. As I said at council. I believe most people only care about how the bill they received this year, matches up with the one from the previous 12 months.
This is a one year budget. Soon we will sitting down to discuss a three year budget plan, and that will be the time, I believe for some more interesting discussions. Discussions, I hope will lead to some changes which will increase public involvement, in real decisions.
The entire budget process was an enormous learning opportunity for me. An education I will put to good use for the next level of discussion.
To be honest, one of the things which disappointed me the most, was the lack of public engagement in the process. It was not through lack of trying. All of our budget documents were placed on line in mid December. There were opportunities, at any time, for people to come forward ...to tell us their concerns...their priorities. And only a handful of people did that.
Some of that is on you. As I've written in the past. a lot of people don't think their opinion matters. That nothing will ever change. I think you have to fight against that. It won't change if people don't stand up.
And a large part of it is on the city. While the documents are posted online, it's not exactly in a taxpayer friendly form. That needs to be adjusted. It's one of the things I'm currently working on.
There will always be people who believe the city is spending too much on the wrong things, not enough on the right things, et cetera. Overall though, you need to believe you're getting value for your money.
Are we there yet?