Library Budgeting Sleight-Of-Hand: THE VOTER

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The Voter takes on the issue of interesting budgeting on the new Adisoke central Ottawa library. To see the post to which she is referring and get the background, click here.

I now understand “on-time and on-budget” better.

Near the bottom of p. 6 of the report, just above the section on risk, it says: “The project remains on budget.”

How can this be when the cost has gone from $172 million to $333 million, you might ask. Simple (don’t try this at home on your own budget). How you achieve this is by approving an increase that almost doubles the budget and then use that as the figure to measure expenditures against. Once you’ve left the $172 million figure behind you, any increase in cost for the project is not referenced to it because it’s no longer the project budget number.


To put it in the context of a domestic budget, if my food costs rise from $100 to $200, all I have to do is raise the amount on the food line of my budget to $200 and all will be well. The budget now says $200 and that’s what I’m spending. To be truly prudent, since I see more grocery price increases on the horizon, perhaps I should add in a contingency amount of $50 which brings the budget line for food to $250 so all is well and I’m now living within my budget. Yay me!

The small problem with this (and such a trivial thing that maybe, like the library people, I shouldn’t even be mentioning it) is that I must now find an extra $150 to fund those food expenditures. But I’m sure that can be dealt with by issuing a debenture or two. Isn’t that how the city handles such things? What do you mean: “It doesn’t work that way unless you have access to the deep pockets of your residents to provide you with that extra money”? That hardly seems fair. Or even good financial management.

I think this is called sleight-of-hand. If you just increase the budget amount when you’re going over the original figure, you can always say that you’re “on-budget”. You’re spot on the new amount and can just ignore the now-historical figure that you started with. Is this more of that New Math they use at city hall?

The Voter is a respected community activist and long-time Bulldog commenter who prefers to keep her identity private.

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2 Responses

  1. Ron Benn says:

    Sleight of hand is so much more palatable than the term we used back in my day – willful misrepresentation.

  2. DOUG says:

    is this the Library that was going to cost 90 million? Ron Benn’s analysis is spot on.

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