Pillai’s penny pinching plan

Ranj Pillai wants to change the city budget process. Getting a third party to look at the budget doesn't mean senior management is incompetent, said the city councillor. "It truly is not a lack of confidence," he said.

Ranj Pillai wants to change the city budget process.

Getting a third party to look at the budget doesn’t mean senior management is incompetent, said the city councillor.

“It truly is not a lack of confidence,” he said. “But it’s a fresh set of eyes.

“Many organizations do it, and it seems to be something that people are open to.”

Both council and senior management seem to be receptive to the idea of getting expert advice about possible efficiencies next time around, said Pillai.

And having another set of eyes also helps foster a sense of transparency and accountability, he said.

“To me it was as much about communication with the public as it was about efficiencies.”

That attitude is a positive development, said Rick Karp, the president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce.

Karp’s request that the city delay the budget vote for more consultation started a vigorous debate among councillors.

“I wasn’t really surprised by it,” he said.

The chamber claimed that the city could save almost $800,000 dollars without cutting services or staff.

Most of those savings were found in using some of the city’s surplus funds to pay down debt, said Karp. However he stressed that the chamber was working with old figures, as the city’s most recent audited statements still haven’t been released.

The budget process needs to be revamped, said Karp, who also stressed he has the utmost confidence in the city managers’ skills.

“It’s ultimately council’s responsibility,” he said. “The senior staff take direction from council.”

There were suggestions during the budget debate that city managers needed to give council more options on where to make cuts.

The council is ultimately responsible for the budget, said Pillai.

But tapping the knowledge of city managers would help, he said.

“It’s saying to the senior management, ‘Use your expertise to make these potential cuts and changes,’” he said. “It shouldn’t be us looking at line items and deciding where we need to cut without the complete context of how these departments run, or really understanding their internal workings.”

This weekend, council is meeting at its annual retreat to discuss many issues, including planning for next year’s budget.

“It will be interesting,” said Pillai. “Everyone has said that they are open to looking at a new process. I don’t want to walk into the first budget meeting of this year and find we’re looking at another four per cent increase.”

Contact Josh Kerr at joshk@yukon-news.co

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