City council takes on the status quo

Tyler
Tyler Clarke
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Coun. Lee Atkinson has been the most vocal proponent on city council for the city to make changes to its status quo. 

Although he voted in favour of this year’s city budget on Monday, Coun. Lee Atkinson wants to see greater change in the status quo within the next year.  

 

“It wasn’t really challenging the existing spending, it was just adding to the existing budget,” he said of this year’s budget process -- the same sentiment he expressed at this time last year.

“For the most part, it’s sort of everything’s pretty much the same as it has always been.”

With a number of high-ranking city administrators leaving their posts in the past year, he said that he would have expected a greater change-up in this year’s budget.

“Ultimately, it was a better process, but I think we need to challenge the status quo, more, because there weren’t really any hard questions -- there weren’t dramatic changes.”

That said, Atkinson noted that this year’s budget process was an improvement on previous years’ -- a point Mayor Greg Dionne has been keen on sharing with the public.

Dionne said that his goal has been improving upon the budget process year after year, with next year’s budget boasting an even greater improvement and a closer look at the status quo.

“The workplace changes,” he said. “Better equipment comes out, so you might have a piece of equipment today that takes two or three people to operate, and the next piece will come and you only need one.”

Perhaps the greatest change to the status quo within this year’s budget was a 15 per cent cut in fuel and electrical consumption.

The city will also look at the closure of four facilities in the near future, Dionne told the Daily Herald earlier this month. The city has yet to announce which facilities face closure, although city council has discussed closing the Margo Fournier Centre in the past, and have repeatedly noted the aging infrastructure that keeps the Kinsmen Water Park running.

In his eight years on city council, Martin Ring said that this year’s budget process was “one of the better ones,” but that he recognizes things can always improve.

One status quo item he’s keen on tackling is with the city’s electronic billing system.

“There are still a lot of improvements that can be made there that can be cost-saving,” he said.

Although the city’s elected officials spent some time patting themselves on the back during Monday’s city council meeting for improving on the budget process, Dionne wants to see next year’s budget finalized by Dec. 31.

It wasn’t really challenging the existing spending, it was just adding to the existing budget. Coun. Lee Atkinson

“In a standard business, you don’t go into a new year without having your budget approved,” he said, adding that by finalizing the budget earlier city administration can begin planning and tendering out projects before other municipalities.

“It’s just so much more prudent on our part, and it’ll save taxpayers money because we’re not getting in line,” he said, adding that by tendering out early they’re more likely to have greater choice in tenders.  

With the city’s elected officials capping of this year’s budget process within the next month, next year’s budget process won’t be too far away should council opt to get things finalized by January, Ring said.

“We’re probably still fresh from this year’s going into next year’s budget,” he said. 

An earlier budget does come with its downsides, he clarified, noting that an earlier budget will mean going into projects with preliminary numbers from the previous budget year instead of actuals.

Hoping to see city council delve more deeply into the status quo during next year’s budget process, Atkinson questions the merit of speeding up the process.

“People seem more concerned about the speed -- that we need to get it done earlier -- and I didn’t hear the correlation of if we get it done earlier that will be significantly better,” he said.

“There was a time when we didn’t pass the budget until almost the end of May.”

While next year’s budget is already up for debate, the 2014 budget process is ongoing.

City council unanimously approved the city’s 2014 budget on Monday, minus Coun. Don Cody who was not present.

This means that city administration has been OK’d funding for certain projects, which they can now begin work on, Dionne said.

The city’s elected officials still have to decide on what tax model they want to use to implement the budget -- a process Dionne expects to see finalized within the next couple cycles of council (about a month’s time).

As it tentatively stands, city coffers face a 4.5 per cent tax increase on the mill rate. 

Organizations: Daily Herald, Bernice Sayese Centre

Geographic location: Kinsmen Water Park

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