Council to reduce budget by $1.6M

Masha Scheele

Council requested a new report and recommendations on the 2020 budget from town administration, including a taxation requirement reduction of at least $1.6M.

This direction came out of the fourth and final scheduled budget meeting between council and administration on Nov. 25.

The report is set to come back by Jan. 30, 2020 and in the meantime administration will prepare an interim budget for 2020 to allow for additional time to review and discuss budget 2020.

“We have the ability to pass an interim budget that keeps the taxation at the current level without any increases,” stated Mayor Marcel Michaels.

Michaels added that if administration sees the need to approve certain items that have implications in the first quarter of 2020, they have the ability to bring that to council before a budget is approved.

Council also gave a direction to fully offset any reductions to reserve contributions by capital project cancellations.

This means that for any reduction in reserve contributions, a project of that value would have to be cancelled within the five year capital plan. 

If this is used as a strategy to offset the tax increase, capital projects would be removed, stated Carla Fox, director of corporate services.

“Because council has moved to try and reduce the budget by $1.6M, this gives an additional tool to be able to achieve that $1.6M in savings. If it’s necessary to reduce the amount of money transferred into reserves, we can do that without damaging the end balance of the reserves by cancelling capital projects that would’ve otherwise drawn those reserves down,” said Coun. Albert Ostashek.

At the beginning of the meeting Michaels reminded council that they could share their own input during the meeting, and that they could move In Camera at any point.

At one point Coun. Trevor Haas brought up a potential area to cut services, but CAO Taylor Martin reminded him, “If you’re talking about reduced levels of service, you’re talking about staff in most cases, maybe it’s legal and maybe it’s land.”

He advised council to discuss these things In Camera.

Administration brought some new information regarding the service levels and a recap of the tax rate implications to the meeting, but did not present on the information as per request of Michaels to keep the meeting concise.

Multiple councillors stated that they would like to know what the new information included, and Coun. Dewly Nelson added that he would have preferred seeing a report with the new information to look at ahead of the meeting. 

Fox explained that the new information on service levels was simply to help council understand the information they had already received.

During budget presentation on Wed., Nov. 20, CAO Martin Taylor had stated that administration would bring back suggestions to the next meeting and reminded council, “Some of those ideas if they are about land, legal, and labour will be In Camera.” 

Fox added during the Nov. 20 meeting that administration understands council won’t have all the answers and that admin will make some suggestions.

“Presenting you with 16 or 12 per cent is not what we’re trying to do here, we’re telling you that we’re at a crossroads, we need help, and we want to do this together so that you are also coming up with the ideas in the service area issue,” said Fox on Nov. 20.

At the following meeting on Nov. 25, administration did not present ideas to cut the budget in certain areas throughout the public portion.

To further discuss options on how to cut down the budget increase, council moved to the In Camera portion, and once they were done they postponed an earlier tabled direction for the next 2020 budget report and recommendations to include at least one third of the recommended cuts to be from operations.