By Dave Loewen. With respect to the comments made by Ambrose regarding my tweet, my intended message was a simple observation that the Parks, Recreation & Culture budget is not as large as the general public appears to believe. Given the fact that Abbotsford is geographically, the largest municipality in B.C., and the per capita budget is as low as indicated, would suggest that our staff is applying their available financial resources efficiently.
Regarding debt, unfortunately, the Ministry data is three years out of date. As you will note, the table found on the government website indicates those figures are based on start of 2011 data. As a matter of fact, given the annual payments made against our debt (which can be found on the City’s Annual Financial Reports), the debt at the end of 2013 is approximately $78.5m. This is a drop of 36% from the high of $123.5m. in 2006. The City paid an additional $5m. of Water debt this year, as the debenture was coming due; the second debenture will be coming due in 2016, when the balance of the water debt will be eliminated.
An additional fact to point out is that Abbotsford’s debt costs (principal and interest) make up only 3-4% of the City’s annual budget. A debt is not something anyone enjoys, however, debts are a reality that individuals, organizations, businesses, and corporations regularly deal with. It is my humble opinion that Abbotsford’s debt is not onerous. Furthermore, this year’s report from Finance indicates a trend towards greater financial sustainability, with respect to Capital Reserve Funds.
The City link to the report from Finance Department regarding this year’s budget-setting will provide many more graphs that reflect an accurate picture of the state of the City’s financial health (see attached graph), as well as indicators of what lies ahead (eg. a 2014 budget very close to 0% increase). With respect to Mr. Murray’s role, both the information and the budget-setting process bear his “signature”.