The total budget is an increase of more than $11 million compared with last year. Meeting Oct. 23 for the first of several formal budget meetings, the city’s finance and administration committee went through spending plans line by line, often pulling items and questioning staff on why certain items were being included.
For example, Ward 10 Coun. Fran Caldarelli questioned why $25,000 was in the budget to develop a logo for the city’s libraries. She was told the aim was to develop a brand for the library, so that when people saw the logo, they would know it’s the library.
“Put the word ‘library’ on it and people will know what it is,” Caldarelli quipped.
Ward 10 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann was upset no money was being set aside to improve accessibility for people with disabilities. She was told that accessibility requirements are automatically included in with every new building, but she persisted and convinced council to include $50,000 in the budget.
Ward 2 Coun. Jacque Barbeau also had issues with the budget, questioning, for example, why staff plans on spending $125,000 on Cambrian Arena’s parking lot, when they had agreed not to spend any more money on Cambrian.
Mayor Marianne Matichuk expressed frustration with money being spent on city buildings that either they don’t use or are underutilized. For example, the city rents its building at 199 Larch St. to the province, under a deal that was supposed to mean the building wouldn’t cost the city any more money. Yet the capital budget includes $1 million for renovations at 199 Larch.
“We’re throwing money down the drain with a lot of these buildings,” Matichuk said.
In response, staff said “unforeseen” issues with the building is forcing the city to spend money there. However, an upcoming report on what surplus city buildings will provide council an opportunity to review the issue.
As well as approving the capital budget for 2013, councillors also approved a list of capital projects and spending for the next five years, finance committee chair Terry Kett said in a release.
“Tonight we reviewed the base capital budget which addresses projects for the next five years,” Kett said. “The capital budget serves as a foundation for investments involving council priorities related to essential municipal infrastructure, including roads, water and wastewater services, leisure and recreational facilities, municipal facilities, public transit, fire and public works equipment.”
The roads and drains 2013 capital budget is $37 million and represents almost 35% of the capital budget. The water and wastewater budget is $40.3 million, while the community development capital budget -- arenas, libraries, and long-term care -- is $7 million. Emergency services is $4.3 million and includes an increase in funding for fire, funded from reserves, for new breathing apparatus for firefighters. The remaining $17.4 million is for areas like environmental services, facilities, police services, information technology projects and individual councillor funds known as the healthy community initiatives.
The capital budget also includes $8.2 million to replace arterial and collector roads, $6 million for replacement of existing local roads and $4.5 million for various bridges and culverts.
The next budget meeting is Nov. 6 at 5:30 p.m. in council chambers. It will focus on the 2013 base operating budget, as well as presentations from police and the Nickel District Conservation Authority. The 2013 municipal budget is tentatively scheduled for approval in January 2014.