Thunder Bay – POLITICS – The City of Thunder Bay ratified the 2016 Budget this week. Councillor at Large, and Chair of Administration and Finance Frank Pullia talked with NetNewsLedger on the budget.
Here are the questions and answers from Councillor Pullia:
1. Are you happy with the efforts and result of Budget 2016?
I am reasonably satisfied that given the difficult and challenging 2016 budget, Council‘s efforts through 5 extensive meetings of Budget deliberations, allowed the public to see the democratic process in action in terms of the difficulty of balancing the citizens’ ability to pay with the provision of services while maintaining investment in needed infrastructure like roads.
2. Do you feel that the process allowed Council and Administration to fully examine all of the expenditures and revenue opportunities to arrive at the final approved budget?
The process itself is one thing, but political will is another. We have a good process in place with sufficient time to review the budget and each department line by line and make the necessary decision to add or subtract items from the budget. The political will of council as a whole is another. For example, I brought forward a resolution to contain wages and benefits that now comprise 75% of the total budget, but it did not get enough support.
3. What can be done better for 2017 in your opinion?
We will be starting the public consultation much earlier this year. We are also trying to start the budget process in October and be completed before the end of the year, in order to start capital projects earlier in the new year and take advantage of the short construction season. We will also build a stronger link between the strategic plan and the budget while focusing on achieving and measuring results through performance indicators. For example, there is a need to get better value for the investment in our roads that do not seem to be lasting as long as they used to. While climate change does have an impact, we need to also look at the quality of the asphalt, construction standards, contract management performance, and other industry best practices. This is just one example of the type of ongoing continuous improvement practices that can be applied to the operational side to find efficiencies and achieve savings.
4. What are you most pleased about in the budget?
That we have started a new process of public engagement that will focus on accountability, transparency and financial responsibility.
5. What are you disappointed in from the Budget and process?
The length of time it takes and the legislative requirements (i.e. bureaucracy) that while necessary to a certain extent needs to be managed better as we move towards better delivery of services within taxpayers’ ability to pay.
6. Any other comments?
Given the challenges that municipalities around the world face, I am also encouraged by the opportunities to improve local government in our city through innovative approaches to community building. I consider myself a community activist and therefore I will continue to challenge the status quo, while bringing forward new ideas based on the concept of OPEN GOVERNMENT. I appreciate the opportunity that NNL provides to inform our citizens.