All County, All the Time Since 2010 MAKE THIS YOUR PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY HOME...PAGE!  Thursday, December 3rd, 2020

A Simple Solution to Budget Woes

Steve Campbell

Yes, I know I missed a week … I was on vacation in Cuba, which is a whole different world – not at all the place that American propaganda would have us believe.
In Cuba, under that nasty socialist system created by the Devil himself, people help other people, and are quite happy to be alive, being served by their government, and living in a free country.
My observation is that you could lay a 100 peso bill on a table in front of the bar and walk away, and no Cuban would touch it. Because it’s not right. Which is why they love Canadians.
Here in our own Island County, we survive by the same moral and ethical values – the same sense of community, the same need to acknowledge a social order that is greater than our own personal interests, a feeling that we all grow together. We succeed if everyone around us succeeds.
Despite the nasty Cold War talk from the U.S.,  we have way more in common with Fidel and Raul’s Cuba than we do with the United States.
So I’ll shake that off now, and try to catch up with what’s happening in the County.
Before I rudely interrupted myself, I was pushing toward a way to help Council balance their budget. Clearly, the money savings are in the ‘Big Ticket’ items, where money flies around fast and furious.
Being me, I have to say it out loud: “Lots of money is being wasted.”
As we know, Council took a champagne toast on the opening of Wellington Arena, which had ‘unexpected’ cost overruns. And I was called something short of an imbecile by a member of the previous council for pointing out that the hell-hole of a quarry purchase will never, ever see a profit for the County. I’ll chalk that one up as a win for me.
(Word on the Street says that the principal on the County’s loan has not yet been touched on the 2.8 million deal.)
I’m not on the attack. Mistakes are made, and I’ve made a few costly ones myself.
Supporting and justifying Really Bad Ideas? That doesn’t sit well with me. Judging by the uprising against south shore wind-farms, and the threat against libraries, town halls and museums, it doesn’t sit well with you either.
So where is the wasted money? Well, it’s in the place everybody is afraid to look. Management.
I need to clarify that. I’m not saying we’re wasting money on the various County managers – I’m saying that the management is not effective in getting a job done at a good price, on time, on budget.
I hate to say it, but I run a business. Government does not run like a business, and that’s why I hate to say it.
But still, there are fundamental principles of business operation and – believe it or not – they’re the same for tiny little County Magazine as they are for the Corporation of the City of the Empire of the Grand Duchy of the County of Prince Edward. Except I make less money.
I’m not exactly Donald Trump, until I can wangle that deal through the planning department for a 75-floor addition to my Bloomfield shop. And my management skills haven’t made me wealthy. (Each of the 75 floors houses one 4X4 foot office.)
But I do know an awful lot about how important projects go down smoothly, from beginning to end, on time, on budget.
My Number One Rule for Business is: “Everyone involved in a project must have a personal stake in its success.”
The client must care about its success, and I must care about its success. Everyone in the production chain needs to treat every dime as if it’s coming out of their own pockets.
I’m not sure County jobs bring that knowledge to the table.
Sure, we all have stories of watching six County workers stand around while one guy shovels. We also know that simple jobs can somehow require a backhoe and a U.S.-military-style back-up of dump-trucks and the seemingly endless supply of pickup trucks with ‘County’ on the side. And yes, people are always complaining that they spotted a County truck at No Frills – clearly on personal time – and they want their 45¢ in tax money returned.
Some of these things don’t cost us a lot of money. They fall under ‘cost of doing business’ and ‘what difference does it make?’.
Which brings me back to management.
I’m not targeting anyone here. I’ll openly admit that I don’t know the County’s levels of bureaucracy which bring a project from start to finish and, like the rest of the County folk, I can’t figure out who is in charge of what, when I leaf through the blue pages in the phonebook.
But I do know this: A manager must ride a project through to the end. Start to finish. They must be on site every day, and they must make sure that no money is wasted. They must have a personal stake in the outcome of the project, and treat every dollar spent as if it’s their own dollar, not a big number on a piece of paper.
For years, the County (and the rest of Canada) has been a victim of the nod-nod-wink-wink process which haunts most construction projects, whether it’s roads or buildings. If you have $125,000 to spend, the project will cost $125,000, plus cost over-runs. If you have $750,000 … you get the picture.
In short: Want to save money? Get your managers and staff personally invested in saving money on every project. Work harder and work smarter. All of us business owners do it. All employees in the private sector do it. It’s time you did too.
It looks like most of the libraries, museums and town halls are off the Mafia Hit List, and it galls me to hear CAO Merlin say that ‘this is the kind of public input we were looking for’.
Go find your own adrenaline rush, Merlin, because County people have had it up to the neck with being threatened with extinction of the things we hold close to our hearts. We’re pretty sick and tired of protecting ourselves from cockamamie ideas, floated as ‘trial balloons’ to test the waters.
We’re not idiots out here. We all know where the Big Money is buried. Go and find it.
Unless you’re scared. Nyah, nyah, nanyah! You’re just a big scaredy-cat. See? That should get your adrenaline running. Not a nice feeling, is it?
You need to go digging in the last place you want to look – your own inherited municipal-governmental home. It will be painful for you. And it will also likely be painful for us.
But there comes a time when you need to clip up the Visa card, and move from Lobster to Kraft Dinner. And it’s a little hard on the stomach. Buy the big family-size jug of Maalox and jump in. The answers are right in front of you, if you dare to walk in where fools fear to tread.

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElseSteve Campbell

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  1. Doris Lane says:

    Steve it is too bad that you are notthe head of council–you know where to look for the ptoblems we are having
    if we are having a money problem we need to look at the home front–in this case where the money spenders live–where at shire hall.
    in business if we get too far in debt we file for bankrupcy –municipalities can not do this–so what do we do about our debt==well we better do something and do it NOW

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