Everyone wants something — the problem is how to pay for it.
That’s the key message coming out of Wednesday’s regional council budget deliberations, where nearly 20 residents made their cases for funding everything from bridge repairs to an art gallery marketing project.
The councillors who set the budget have their own wants. Some want more services for rural parts of Waterloo Region. Some, like Kitchener Coun. Geoff Lorentz, want more uniformed police.
And that’s without getting into the biggest want of all — the want that caused dozens of social service providers to head for regional council chambers.
Cuts in various provincial benefits to low-income individuals leave the region staring down a $6-million social services shortfall.
Service providers are already stretched near the breaking point. They worry that any gains made since the 2008 recession would be immediately lost under the region’s proposal to maintain only $1.15 million of the benefits for the poorest of the poor.
Of course, those same service providers would prefer to reach and help individuals long before they find themselves relying on the social safety net.
That’s where projects like street gang prevention project inReach come in — or would come in, if inReach wasn’t themselves asking the region to help make up an $800,000 shortfall in federal funding.
Ultimately, it all boils down to a mantra mentioned Wednesday by the West Montrose Bridgekeepers, though applicable to every other issue that came up — an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
But nothing in life is free, and if the Region of Waterloo wants to avoid paying for a pound of cure in the future, they may have to charge taxpayers for an ounce of prevention now.