Provided a clear picture of all city departments, the city’s elected officials are clear to enter this coming week’s budget deliberations.
At the close of this week’s two service review meetings, Coun. Lee Atkinson commended council for leaving no “sacred cows” in city finances.
After learning more about such pertinent and expensive budget items as the city’s multi-million-dollar paving projects deficit and fire department substation request, service review discussions capped off on Friday with a discussion centred on community services.
“We’re running all these facilities, and nobody’s challenging them to ask, ‘do we need this facility?’” Mayor Greg Dionne asked.
Community services includes such facilities as the Alfred Jenkins Field House, the Art Hauser Centre, Cooke Municipal Golf Course, Frank J. Dunn Pool, community clubs, the E. A. Rawlinson Centre, parks and various other public facilities.
The department’s budgeted operating deficit last year was $5.7 million.
Taking the “no sacred cows” mentality, Dionne pulled several facilities aside to question the pertinence of, including the Margo Fournier Centre, which has 16,240 patron visits per year, excluding the Heritage Centre and came at a cost of $215,790 to taxpayers last year.
“It was my understanding (that) when we built the (Alfred Jenkins Field House) soccer centre that we were going to close the Margo Fournier Centre,” Dionne said.
“That was one of the proposals,” community services director Greg Zeeben confirmed.
“What happened? We did open the soccer centre, and then we never had the discussion on what to do with the Margo Fournier Centre. So, is it waiting in limbo for the new council to bring it up again?”
This facility will come up for discussion during budget deliberations, alongside several others, including the Dave G. Steuart Arena and Kinsmen Arena, which cost taxpayers a combined $221,490 last year.
We’re running all these facilities, and nobody’s challenging them to ask, ‘do we need this facility? - Mayor Greg Dionne
By selling one of these facilities and having community clubs absorb its revenues, Dionne said that the city “might save some of our community clubs,” which he noted are constantly under stress.
The city budgeted almost $300,000 of taxpayer money toward community clubs last year.
Of the city’s 182 buildings, 153 are of significance, Zeeben told council. The future of these buildings should be considered before any money is put into them, since there’s little point in fixing a building that’s not much longer for this world, Coun. Ted Zurakowski said.
A building review is in the works for the near future, Dionne told council.
Throughout the two days of service review meetings, city administration from various departments mentioned the need for various personnel -- one of many issues that will factor into this coming week’s budget discussions.
“Every department believes they haven’t got enough resources,” Coun. Don Cody said. “What is the problem here? Are the resources not well used … or do we really need more resources?”
Budget discussions will continue after Monday’s regular council meeting with those who registered to speak to council allowed time to voice their suggestions and concerns.
On Friday, general fund capital and operating budget reviews will take place, beginning at 9 a.m. Discussions are expected to continue until a budgetary decision has been made, extending into Saturday if needed.
Friday’s meeting is scheduled to end by 5 p.m., and if Saturday’s meeting is needed it will begin at 9 a.m.
All of these meetings are open to the public.