My approach to fiscal management & intergenerational equity

It’s time to talk policy. This is my favourite aspect of this whole campaign business. (No, it’s not seeing my face on giant signs at intersections all over Saanich!) I like to be well researched and contribute ideas to the debate. In my view, that is how things move forward, and how we progress as people and communities.

My weekly updates for the remainder of the campaign will elaborate on the carefully selected priorities in my vision for Saanich (found here: https://www.rebeccamersereau.ca/issues/). Prudent fiscal management and intergenerational equity are priorities for me and are the focus of this week’s update. Just in case that induced a yawn, let me sneak in a few other updates first:

Now back to talking about money. I happen to love budgeting and financial management. During the first five years of my career, I managed non-profit organizations and picked up a lot of skills in these areas out of necessity, as well as a propensity for maintaining lean operations. I now spend my days advising municipalities and regional districts on how to improve the financial and operational sustainability of their water services. My recent graduate studies in public administration included courses in financial management and accountability, microeconomics, and urban economics. These academic credentials have been instrumental in figuring out how to apply my knowledge to different contexts and challenges (and they help lend me some credibility too I hope).

My proposal for a more efficient, transparent, and resilient Saanich

Despite the building boom currently underway in much of Greater Victoria, the looming demographic shift[i] means we will inevitably experience slowing economic growth, and a higher proportion of residents on fixed incomes. This requires more attention to both the expense and revenue sides of our ledger in Saanich. There is also an urgent need for more public engagement in budgeting and taxation decisions, to ensure our services are affordable and reflect the priorities of our residents and businesses. Some specific ideas I would like to bring forward to address this important challenge are below.

Controlling expenses

  • Develop and implement targets for business process efficiency to make Saanich more competitive and attractive for investment (e.g. timelines for issuing building permits and advancing development proposals).
  • Commission a service delivery review[ii] to support staff in re-allocating resources and re-designing processes to enable the above targets to be met.
  • Ensure proposals and recommendations for acquiring assets (e.g. parks) and undertaking initiatives are fully costed over the long term (inclusive of capital and operating & maintenance costs).
  • Clarify the existing Public Participation Policy so it is understood by all which types of decisions the public will have an opportunity to weigh in on, and in which capacity. (Consultation is critical, but it can also be expensive and inefficient. Outcomes aside, the eight-year Shelbourne Valley Action Plan process is a case in point.)

Increasing revenues

  • Follow best practices and avoid passing on debt to future generations by ensuring full cost recovery for appropriate services (e.g., water, sewer, solid waste).
  • Increase the tax base in Saanich by:
  1. increasing density in appropriate areas, and
  2. actively attracting new businesses and commercial enterprises to Saanich.
  • Sponsor a resolution for the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) to lobby the new provincial government for a fairer share of tax revenues and a more reliable stream of infrastructure funding. (Did you know that municipalities currently collect only about 8 cents for every tax dollar collected nationally[iii], yet are responsible for financing most infrastructure and are restricted to levying property taxes[iv]?)

Improving transparency and financial management processes

Reaffirm a past commitment to pay down Saanich’s infrastructure deficit so that future generations will not have to bear an unfair burden of costs for our expenses.

  • Develop a policy to guide decisions about whether to finance capital assets using debt or reserve funds to improve transparency and help maintain intergenerational equity for current and future residents of Saanich.
  • Adopt participatory budget processes (like the District of Tofino and the City of Victoria) to increase public engagement in how we allocate resources.

Congrats if you made it to the end! As you can see, I’m passionate about ensuring we’re prudently managing our services and assets in Saanich. That just scratches the surface.

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[i] Saanich’s proportion of residents aged 65 or more is projected to increase from 20.8% to 28.2% by 2036. http://www.saanich.ca/assets/Parks~Recreation~and~Culture/Documents/OAS-Strategy-RevG%20June22.pdf [ii] This is a standard service solicited by local governments to improve the efficiency of their operations. [iii] https://fcm.ca/Documents/reports/The_State_of_Canadas_Cities_and_Communities_2012_EN.pdf [iv] http://www.ubcm.ca/assets/library/Publications/Local~Government~in~British~Columbia/LGBC-All.pdf