All County, All the Time Since 2010 MAKE THIS YOUR PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY HOME...PAGE!  Tuesday, November 24th, 2020

If ya don’t got it, don’t spend it

We left off last time talking about the Out-Of-Control County Budget. I have more to say on that subject.
Keep in mind that the County does not pay me to give keen observations, thoughtful advice and possible solutions. Sure, they’ll give a consultant
$10,000 to say, “Beats me,”  or “Yes, we have examined it thoroughly, and our response is the same as it was in last year’s $10,000 report, so just
re-read it, so we can save the postage.” But I don¹t get a dime. Possibly because it’s not in the budget.
Before I launch into my textbook points on “What¹s wrong with the County Budget”, let me give you some background.
Webster¹s Dictionary describes “budget” as: “A written statement of money – where it comes from, and how it is to be spent.”  Noah Webster used to
talk this kind of gobbledygook that my accountant bores me with, so let me translate it into our language: “Whatcha got? Whatcha owe? Whatcha wanna buy?”
For all of the money that gets tossed freely to consultants, accountants, auditors, bookkeepers, and other people who have learned to use calculators, I prefer to go to the source. Mayoral candidates may pound the drum on their amazing business skills but, if you want to know how a budget works, ask a housewife.
They have all the answers to the above three questions, and they do it every day. This is why they now want to be called “homemakers”.
They add up the money coming in, and they subtract the hydro, phone, house insurance, car insurance and food bills, bring the whole thing into
balance, and everybody gets to live for another month, excluding HST.
Let’s face it, if the guy ran the household, he would be found dead in a $10,000 La-Z-Boy in front of a $20,000 Sony 85-inch plasma TV, with no heat and no hydro. In the fridge would be a half-loaf of green bread and a giant jar of Skippy peanut butter with a knife stuck in it.
I hope this helps you understand the importance of “budgeting”.
Homemakers know: You don’t buy caviar and wine when the Hydro Smart Meter is about to plunge you into darkness. But you can still buy shoes, because there¹s always room in the budget for shoes. That’s the downside of having women control the budget.
So, now that you understand how this amazingly simple process works, let’s see how Council has managed to bugger it up:
1) Spend more than you make.
Everyone knows that Big Fat G is built to spend more money than it brings in. And it needs to have more and more staff to keep track of exactly how
much they are overspending. This process continues until there is no-one left in the County, except for government employees.
2) Spend money that doesn¹t belong to you.
Believe me, I understand this. Well-intentioned councillors sit down in their appointed seats at the table, feel the warmth of the cheap fabric, and
then get to spend money they will never see.
Because it’s all on paper.
It’s a shock when you spend your “home life” checking to see if the shampoo at Wal-Mart is cheaper than the shampoo at Pharma Plus, and your “Council life” deciding whether $1.5 million is a good price for repairing a road.
I get it. Pretty soon, you’re going: “Wow! Only $2.4 million? Grab onto that deal before he changes his mind!”
3) Federal Grants. This is a pet peeve of mine. Time and again in the papers, including one recent example, I read that the Feds will kick in 50%
of the money for a project. And it’s a limited time offer.
This sends everybody scurrying to take advantage of the Free Money before it disappears. Does anyone see the problem with this?
First, it’s not budgeted. Second, if the government offers you $1.5 million on a $3 million project … it’s not a deal -unless you have $1.5 million kicking around to spend!
This what I call “Bad Shopper Syndrome”: “Wow! 50% off on 85-inch plasma TVs at Best Buy! Maybe I should get a second one!” And they do. Until all
their credit cards are maxed, getting Great Deals.
4) Bring Up The Reserves. So, if you have an unbudgeted Deal of the Century you can’t refuse, and you quite simply are up to your collective butts in debt, where do you turn? Certainly not to any Canadian Bank – they would whip the County Credit Card out of your pocket and clip it up in front of your face.
No. You start eyeballing your Reserve Fund. Councillors jump at the chance because they see, on paper, there’s a load of Possibly Real Money
Just Sitting There. What say we just take a smidgeon of that? No harm done.
But that’s not what a Reserve Fund is for. It’s for the Future, and for Emergencies.
In short: The next time you feel like delving into the Reserve, ask yourself this question: “Would I delve into my child’s Education Fund, so I can have what I want right now?”
If you’re going to sell out our future, you’re selling out your kid’s future as well.
5) Consultants. Sweet Lord Almighty! How many freakin’ consultants do you need? Our New Ontario won’t let you go to the toilet without a team of
consultants checking in on it.
There’s big talk from the mayoral candidates about how they “count on the staff” to provide them with well-researched information. Well, if these guys are so hot, why can¹t they do the job the way it used to be done?
Once upon a time, you’d have an inspection and the County Officer would say: “Fix this and this.”  Now, I hear from everywhere, they are demanding
that consultants be brought in to assess the situation, and make recommendations to engineers to draw up plans on how to approach the job of
“fixing this and this”.
This is ridiculous beyond belief.
I suspect that hundreds of thousands of dollars go rolling out of here each year on consultant fees, so they can confirm what the County staff have
already determined.
If the County staff are so hot, why not let them make the call? If they’re not capable of figuring out the solution, they should not be making the assessment in the first place.
If they can’t point out what needs to be done, without adding thousands of dollars in consulting fees (payable by the Victim), they are inept, and
should be fired.
So that wraps it up for budget comments. I’m sure there’s at least one person out there who agrees with me. If not, I’ll need to hire a consultant, to assess the situation. Do you mind if I bill it to you?

Filed Under: Steve Campbell

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  1. Lori says:

    And now we have a Community Improvement Plan [CIP] being developed by, I’m sure you can guess, yet another consulting firm …
    “The Economic Development Office is working closely with an experienced consulting team to develop the Creative Rural Economy CIP. The consulting team has prepared community improvement plans for a number of other communities, including Chatham-Kent, St. Thomas and Trent Hills. The team also has extensive rural economic development and planning experience.”

    So what’s wrong with our community that we need to improve it? I thought we were do a great job. The County practically invented the Creative Rural Economy and the people that did it, did it without the big G. Do we really need to pay people to tell us what we already know?

    And didn’t we just go through an election where most of these councillors, were hitting the campaign trail, telling us they would be financially responsible if re-elected. I guess the last two months of their term in office doesn’t count. (Is it a case of let’s break the bank now, so we can look good spending the regular $millions when we start as the new council?) I was also under the impression that they could not sign any contracts, until the new council took over, I guess the must-have consultants are exempt from that rule.

    Let’s hope the new council isn’t as inept at making common sense decisions, and won’t have to rely on “experts” who are paid to tell you what you want to hear, so they can come back and do it again (it’s how they stay in business).

  2. Chris Keen says:

    Until the Council adopts a zero-based budgeting system I’m awfully afraid that nothing will change.

  3. Louisa says:

    What gets me is the billboard-like advertising for gaining popularity (do you really see any of it after the first 1 minute of driving? You get the same stuff in the mailbox daily anyhow, so why look at the signs when you need to be watching the road). The signage is competing with Smittys’ and who’d have thought that could ever happen? I just hope someone can get use out of them, like the birds maybe. Or the coyotes!

    Mr. Campbell, perhaps some day someone in a position for making positive, sensible changes will be reading it all and raising their palm to their forehead in realization, and taking it one step further and acting on it. But if all else fails, the entertainment factor is still there for some in the form of said arm/mud wrestling matches, etc. etc.

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