City budget gets unanimous council support

Tyler
Tyler Clarke
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Mayor Greg Dionne talks up the city’s 2014 budget at Monday’s city council meeting, during which the city’s elected officials unanimously supported the document. 

For the first time in more than a decade, Prince Albert’s municipal budget got unanimous support from the city’s elected officials.

 

Soaking up the unanimous support’s afterglow, Mayor Greg Dionne congratulated not only city council, but administration as well.

“I was very pleased because of the process,” Dionne said after Monday’s city council meeting, singling out the city’s new manager, Jim Toye, for making the budget process easier to sift through.

“Not only did we get unanimous support, we had a lot of councillors who didn’t support the process in the past, and (said) ‘After 14 years this is the best process we’ve had.’”

With a handful of closed-door base budget meetings in December leading up to this month’s three public budget committee meetings, Dionne said that this is also the most in-depth city council has gone into the numbers since he was first elected to city council more than a decade ago.

“I was very pleased with the staff for putting together all the different budget documents we wanted,” he said.

Prior to city council’s unanimous stamp of budgetary approval, Dionne joined a few others on council in ushering others to vote in favour of the document.

“At the end of the day, I object to two or three things in the budget -- I do,” Dionne told council.

“In some cases, I’ll even admit I voted wrong when we put it in the budget, but I’m not going to jeopardize the whole operation of the city and say ‘no, ‘ and use that an excuse when I go to the public.”

This year’s budget committee process saw a number of split votes on various expenditures.  

Debate on individual items is not over even though council has approved the 2014 budget, Coun. Martin Ring clarified during Monday’s meeting.

The budget will continue to be a “live” project, he said, noting that it’s something both administration and city council will have to continue to look at “to make sure we’re operating within those guidelines, within those parameters.”

Not only did we get unanimous support, we had a lot of councillors who didn’t support the process in the past, and (said) ‘After 14 years this is the best process we’ve had.’ Greg Dionne

“There are still a couple of pieces deep inside the budget that I encourage administration to go back look at and see if there isn’t some further dollar savings that can be brought back to us,” he said.

A handful of other councillors commended their colleagues on the city’s 2014 budget, including Coun. Mark Tweidt, who noted that although he didn’t want to see an increase, he thought city council has “done a prudent job.”

While the majority of council set a congratulatory tone, Coun. Lee Atkinson noted that although he’s supportive of the overall document, this year’s budget didn’t stray too far from the status quo -- something he hopes to see council do a better job of addressing next year.

Although city council approved the city’s 2014 budget on Monday, it’s still not a done deal.

While city council approved a total revenue of $65,927,330 and expenses of $57,410,910 on Monday, how this translates into property taxes still needs to be considered.

Taxation is projected to rake in about $34 million in 2014, with this year’s $1.63 increase from last year expected to translate into a 4.5 per cent mill rate increase.

Mill rates, base taxes, tax ratios and various other budget implementation tools will be discussed at the city’s next council meeting, scheduled for April 7.

Monday’s unanimous council support was without that of Coun. Don Cody, who was not present. 

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