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Centralized spending decisions

05-Sep-2012 [6018]

• When we create bureaucracies to run our public amenities, decision-making and public spending are generally centralized - and very hard to track. Is this the type of governance we want?

Significant decisions about public spending - many of which are not published or included in public debate - are made by non-elected government staff. Because budgets are centralized, it is often difficult or impossible to tell how much is being spent to run our local public amenities - in terms of the services and amenities, we see and experience - on the ground. Councillors and citizens are offered much of the fine print - in line items contained in extensive budget documents that make little sense to us.

Public money... but we often can't tell, nor, therefore, take part in meaningful discussion and debate about how it is spent....

Is this choice working for us? Are we setting ourselves up for success and the type of governance we want?

When people can track and speak out about spending concerns in their specific local facilities, key questions about how our money is spent come to the forefront... Here are 2 Toronto Star articles that illustrate the importance of clear costing links to spending at our public facilities.

"Here’s what taxpayers were charged for work done at Toronto public schools:

Installing a $17 pencil sharpener: $143 to put in four screws.

The installation of a sign on a school’s front lawn: $19,000

An electrical outlet on the wall in a school library: $3,000

A “breakfast club” kitchen: $250,000

When the librarian at the electrical outlet school saw the bill she hit the roof, wondering at “the number of books that could have been purchased with $3000.”...see the Star

"All outside building contractors hired by the Toronto District School board have to pay Jimmy Hazel’s trades council a cut of their wages, documents reveal.

Those contractors have paid a total of $2 million over the past 10 years to the Maintenance and Construction Skilled Trades Council, according to a TDSB official...."

See the Star