Council sticks close to administration’s budget

Tyler
Tyler Clarke
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Mayor Greg Dionne flips through budget documents during Friday’s budget committee meeting. 

The city’s elected officials have made their budget expectations known, and now it’s up to administration to put it into motion.

 

Friday’s budget committee meeting capped off with minimal changes to city administration’s proposed budget, which included a 4.5 per cent tax increase.

Although Mayor Greg Dionne said that he is declining comment on the budget until Monday, city finance director Joe Day took a few minutes to explain the budget’s ins and outs after Friday’s meeting.

“I wouldn’t suggest that we know for sure, yet, that we’re at 4.5 (per cent),” Day said, noting that council changed administration’s budget enough that he can’t assess its impact until he’s had time to do the math.  

“They may do it as a base tax, they may do it as a general levy increase, they may choose to not contribute as much to reserves or pull from reserves,” he said, indicating other variables that might change its potential impact.

The budget committee meetings on Thursday and Friday set up city parks to do well by the 2014 budget, with the city’s elected officials opting to pull at least $220,000 from the city’s developer-driven parks reserve.

About $40,000 of playground equipment will be installed at an east hill area park behind Barton Drive adjacent to the Rotary Trail -- a decision of council that left Martin Ring grinning, noting that he’s been advocating for the equipment for about seven years.

Ring also successfully advocated for a $30,000 resurfacing of the Crescent Acres tennis courts.

Another $150,000 will be drawn from the parks reserve to pay for a spray park at the West Hill Community Club -- an item Coun. Ted Zurakowski advocated for.

The park used to have a paddling pool, he said, noting that it was removed to accommodate the construction of St. Anne School.

The balance of city parks are expected to improve under the leadership of the city’s new community services director Jody Boulet, who is cleared to hire a city parks manager.

An internal shifting of staff cleared up funding for the new position, he said, noting that it will come at no additional cost to the city.

We’ve really had a good year this year as an opportunity to fund a lot of areas that have been scrimped on in years past. Joe Day

Few other budgetary changes stick out, with the city’s elected officials remaining fairly close to the administration-set status quo budget, which includes the continuation of the now annual $4-million asphalt-paving program that started last year.

A cursory glance reveals a greater balance of items removed from the budget than added, although Day said that he’s refraining from making comment on the final total until he’s had time to hash out the official figures.

“I’m very pleased with how the budget process has gone, how the values have come out,” he said.

“We’ve really had a good year this year as an opportunity to fund a lot of areas that have been scrimped on in years past.”

This year’s budget process began late last year, when the city’s elected officials held several base budget meetings with administration -- meetings the public and media were not allowed to attend.

“The in-camera meetings were really just an opportunity for council members to speak frankly and for administration to speak frankly with each other about what, really, are the goals and objectives of this city from the perspective of council members,” Day explained, adding that the meetings’ purpose was “just to ensure that we were on the same page going into budget deliberations.”

No significant changes to the budget occurred during in-camera meetings, “but it was a really good exchange of information, Day concluded.

The implications of the decisions city council made at Thursday and Friday’s budget committee meetings will be examined after Monday’s executive committee meeting, which will begin in council chambers at 5:45 p.m.

Any decisions council made on Thursday and Friday are considered tentative at this point and still require a formal vote at a future city council meeting. 

Organizations: West Hill Community Club, Anne School

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