Understanding and Evaluating our Budget:
A) Transparency, not Mysteries
I don’t know about you, but , even though I aptly managed a $6 million budget at Santa Barbara City College, I am too often totally confused by the CRD budget. While some of this may be my fault, I am convinced that the budget details are needlessly confusing.
As a start:
There should be a cover page and easy-to-access follow-up pages (or links) to drill down as far as needed for each service, even individual requisitions.
Once a project is underway, the expenditure details are unavailable - sometimes not available until many months - or even years - after the project has been completed. Local Commissioners (and you) should have better information.
Whatever are Allocations? Possibly the overhead percentage taken by CRD Victoria, it is very difficult to track this budget line. One should be able to click on it to track exactly where our tax dollars are going, yes?
And, the list of confusing, nontransparent elements of our budget goes on. . . .
Hopefully our Local Commissioners will be tenacious enough to get budget reports that address their (and your) need for information.
B) Who is Tracking the Results of our $$$? A significant amount is allocated every year to non-local services.
Regional Allocations: Every year, Salt Spring is required to allocate significant sums to regional services. While we have done well with the CRD Hospital District and CRD Housing, do we have any recourse to the hundreds of thousands of tax dollars allocated CRD Regional Parks every year without return? I would like Local Commissioners to address this question - immediately!
Other Non-Salt Spring-Based Allocations: Do you know that other regional groups get money every year? While these amounts may be as small as $25,000, does anyone evaluate these expenditures every year? Local Commissioners should do exactly that.
Hasn’t anyone heard of Performance Objectives? We should have a clearly-defined set of expectations (measurable objectives) for every CRD allocation. How can we evaluate performance (and we must!) when we don’t even have a clear set of expectations for the money we spend?
C) Action, Not Studies! While CRD has been amazing at completing studies, in my opinion, it is now time to focus our tax dollars on action.
One way to use our tax dollars for cost-effective action are, in my opinion, Contribution Agreements. Many of you may not know that CRD already has a number of such agreements with community organizations such as our Library, Arts Council, and Recycling Centre. CRD tax dollars go to each of these organizations to support some of their operating costs.
Recently, Gary has begun to work toward expanding these Contribution Agreements to other nonprofits to allow them to perform important community services at a fraction of CRD costs. Supporting our amazing volunteer groups (annually evaluated with measurable performance objectives) to do more less expensively seems to me to be a smart way to get action rather than studies.
No budget mysteries, tracking our $$$, and action rather than studies. . .seem so logical and simple, yes?
Unexpectedly difficult . . . but worth working to achieve.
I hope you agree.