Editorial: Delays don’t mean savings

Spend now, or spend more later?

City council being frugal with our taxpayer dollars is a good thing but delaying necessary purchases is another.

Last week, council was asked to vote on a $4.7 million budget amendment, basically giving city staff the go-ahead and funding to get a number of 2019 projects started before council’s budget deliberations, which have been delayed till spring. But rather than examining some of the bigger ticket items, like a chlorine generation plant, for savings, council only asked about three things: delaying replacing the carpet in the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre, delaying the purchase of a new sewer flushing truck and the cost of new breathing units for the fire department.

Putting off something like the carpet replacement is only delaying the inevitable. You can maybe avoid it for a while, but the need doesn’t change, and this project has been delayed since 2011.

It’s likely purchasing carpeting was cheaper a few years ago than it is today. Same goes for the sewer flush truck; ours is now at the point where staff are concerned it might break down — why was a replacement not purchased at a time to allow their life cycles to overlap?

Whether it’s roads or carpets, delaying spending is a good way to make your city budget look smaller and keep tax increases down, but eventually, the work won’t be optional. All you’ve accomplished is passing the cost — plus inflation and interim repair costs — on to later taxpayers.

Delaying spending does make sense in some cases but, like a homeowner preparing their budget, setting aside money to eventually pay for it is the next step. The City of Penticton has any number of reserves for major future capital projects; why was the same principle not applied to these delayed projects?

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