Recently we were treated to a debate on the merits of hiring an outside expert to come up with a ‘brand’ for Squamish, so that we might better market ourselves to the world and attract businesses and individuals to locate here.
I’m not really going to get into the merits of such an exercise; suffice to say I’m a skeptic about these things generally. What piqued my interest in the debate was the cost.
Its $65,000 of taxpayer’s money spent on an American consulting firm. This produced a fair bit of heat, particularly online.
Many wondered how the district could justify spending $65,000 going to an outside consultant on a kind of airy-fairy thing like branding.
The defence offered was this: Well, this is $65,000, and in the context of a $30M+ budget, that’s small beans.
That may well be true. But I think it maybe misses the larger point about managing ones finances.
And this was a lesson learned in micro the hard way by myself. We always think that a morning coffee from Starbucks or lunch at the local lunch counter every day is a small amount. And taken individually, it is.
Unfortunately it’s in the aggregate that the numbers jump out at you, should you dare to look.
Our little family, as an example, is fond of Friday night take out. However one day I plugged all of our bank records into our accounting software and discovered we were spending an astounding $3500 annually on the stuff!
It’s all about aggregate. $65,000 for a branding consultant. Tens of thousands for an event coordinator. Double digit pay raises for Council. 30+ staff making more than $75,000 a year in wages and benefits. Unnecessary consulting fees. It adds up. And that’s before getting into bigger ticket items like (taking cover under desk here) — soccer field turf.
It is fair enough to argue that these investments are necessary to produce the optimum outcomes we seek.
However, one has to live within one’s means and at times accept less than optimum in order to fit the constraints of one’s finances.
Certainly my daughter attending an elite private school would give her better socio-economic future, but it would mean not being able to afford rent right now.
So, she attends public school like everyone else. Life is about compromise. Yes, Squamish Adventure Centre is a beautiful building, but how many dollars in tax increases could have been avoided by putting it off until we had a larger tax base?
Keeping a lid on spending is essential if we are to avoid driving business and residents out of the community with punitive taxes.
We all have our eyes on the bigger ticket items like SODC (and we should), but maybe it’s time to start looking at all the smaller expenses and start figuring out what we truly could live without.