To the Editor,
Recently I’ve been attending Digby Town Council meetings to learn more about how the town operates. Monday I was a bit confused about the priorities of Digby Town Council. Here’s what I heard.
Big Party: The event committee presented a proposed budget to council which included $1200 for a Christmas staff party, a big cost compared to the $450 for the New Year’s Day Levy which the entire town can attend. Combine this with the $25 gift card employees get as a Christmas bonus and the town spends almost $2000 dollars on staff holiday perks. The town does not even give the food bank $100 a month; they just match the total value of gift cards they buy for staff.
As a public servant I'm happy to have a job with good benefits and I expect that I will not receive a Christmas bonus or attend a well-funded mixer during the holidays. This is a time of fiscal restraint and yet the town shows none. Imagine the outrage if every school board employee, health care worker, provincial or federal government employee received a $25 gift card and an expensive party. The town should reflect what happens in other sectors of the civil service where Christmas extras are not the norm. Not a single councilor addressed the $1200 cost.
Big Toys: I’m a runner and I spend a lot of time jogging around town in the winter on nicely plowed sidewalks and roads. Recently I read about how we have the Cadillac snow removal service here in Digby. Yet in the CAO’s report it detailed 4 tenders on a skid steer and snow blower just in time for winter when the sidewalks will need to be plowed, except it’s almost springtime. Why are we going to spend $38,755-$48,824 on new snow removal equipment when we have the Cadillac service already? Are we aiming for the Porsche or Ferrari snow removal service? Not a single councilor commented on this costly capital purchase. I have a used 2001 car I bought in 2006 which I repair because I do not want a sizable car payment and I suspect many people are similar. Maybe that’s not how towns operate; they buy big, buy new and pass the payments on to the taxpayer.
Big Spending: The CAO’s report also mentioned how consultant Rick Ramsey (who was paid $25,000 to prepare the Organization Study) has been working with the Town to draft terms of reference for the Management Team. My understanding from a previous Committee of the Whole is that any additional work he conducted will be an extra cost. Why has the public not been informed of this cost by council? Rick Ramsey even suggested increased communication with the public; however the Council seems to prefer a closed-door approach for potentially high consultation fees.
It seems backwards to me the way the town operates. How are they accounting for spending money next year when they haven’t prepared a budget yet? The Mayor and Council committed to having a public budget consultation. On the future events or meeting dates listed by the CAO no consultation is listed. Council seems ready to use taxpayer money for spending, without justification or explanation to residents.
School boards, health districts and government departments are given money which they have to operate with by showing economic restraint in planning budgets, spending on capital costs and staffing. In the private sector they find ways to cut costs or risk going out of business. Will the town become a transparent and accountable publicly funded organization or do the residents of Digby have an uncertain future paying for Big Parties, Big Toys and Big Spending?