Last week, the Town of Cochrane reported a $3.2 million surplus.At first glance, this seems like straightforward good news. But is it? I applaud council's decision to have these figures become public knowledge and the decision to put these funds into the town’s depleted reserves. However, this news reminds me of the old cartoon of a child with his/her thumb in a leaking dam.
I use such an analogy to point out this ‘windfall’ is both temporary – a reflection of Cochrane taxpayers paying more for services – and not sustainable. An additional $455,000 came from user fees and taxes but those extra fees are in excess of the 10 per cent tax increase in our last budget. An additional $673.000 came from cost savings by the Town for not running operations the same way due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but even Town administration warns that this situation would not likely continue and is “not sustainable.” Further draws from reserves are expected, so this deposit is likely temporary.
So, just as the child is holding back the flood of water, this windfall is simply a happy distraction that does little to fix the underlying problem. That problem is that this council has gone on an unsustainable spending spree. Even when we get good news, there are still the realities of depleted financial reserves, increased debt servicing costs and increased costs to the Cochrane taxpayer.
No matter how you spin the numbers, there are only so many fingers you can use to plug the holes.Dan Cunin