The fifth budget meeting began with a pre-budget approval of $50,000 to cover the cost of reinforcing Port Robinson’s Fire Station #3 with 10” x 26” steel beams. This should resolve the station being able to take the weight of the trucks stationed there. That does not cover any repairs to the meeting room in the station of damage caused by the floor repairs, which would likely cost another $20,000 or more. Because so many issues are interconnected, however, that particular matter was put off while options are being explored. As they stated, for the moment staff are concerned only with getting “the fire hall working like a fire hall.” This pushed the budget increase at the beginning of the meeting from 3.38% to 3.66% or roughly $41 on each average assessment for 2015.
There was once again a fair bit of discussion about rural gravel roads, snow ploughing, grass cutting and grading but options are being investigated rather than buy new equipment. City Hall has uneven walkways, both paved types and bricked types, which will eventually cost about $22,000 to remedy, intended to be spread out over three years, but money was found to do this year’s portion so no tax increase was due here.
The subject of deferred GPS units for City vehicles was resurrected because staff deem them to be important for scheduling ploughing and such and because evidence of certain functions and their times can be helpful in liability suits. Councillor Handley asked if it could lead to a saving on fuel costs, but staff had no numbers concerning that. Before Council adopted the programme, the Fire Chief opted his department’s vehicles out of the programme for now because he had to make certain that they would be compatible with the system St. Catharines Fire Services is buying, since they dispatch for Thorold and other municipalities. The $18,000 cost was adopted by Council unanimously, but for Mayor Luciani.
Councillor Charron brought up the interesting question of what they were going to do about all of the equipment purchases they were deferring, since next year’s schedule will double the number. It was suggested by Councillor Neale that the numbers would then be high enough that the total could be debentured and thereby reduce the hit to the taxpayers, especially if they were to incorporate Councillor Wilson’s ideas of buying add-ons for existing equipment rather than buying completely new equipment.
Councillor Neale also asked why they couldn’t allow N-Tec to build the gazebo they’d offered for the park in Port Robinson. Staff repeated last term’s concerns that it would require maintenance, wouldn’t be a commercial quality structure and other parks don’t have them either. When asked, however, staff admitted that they had not asked what construction would be used (Council directed them to do so) and Councillor Wilson pointed out that if others want one for their parks, there is nothing to stop them from going out and looking for a sponsor themselves.
Councillor Ugulini suggested that a deferred $300 paper shredder be put back in because surely they would save at least that in employee time and vehicle fuel and wear and tear, as documents now must be taken to City Hall to be disposed of. Councillor Ugulini, who had been against spending any more money, quipped, “That’s your gift from me. It’s the only amount I’m willing to have go on the levy.”
The Meeting wrapped up with the levy increase for 2015 at 3.87% or roughly $43.00 for an average assessment.
They scheduled one more budget meeting for Wednesday, April 8 at 6:00 p.m. This will likely be the last, unless someone raises an incredible amount of trouble, since the review has been finished. Their task now is to go over what has been added, giving Councillors a chance to reconsider, and to ask for further information.
It certainly looks like they’ll finish in time to get you your final tax bill in time for June’s first installment.