BUDGET MEETING NO. 5 DOWN – MAYBE ONE (OR TWO, OR THREE) TO GO

Budget 2015-001

This was a long one since they allowed 3 hours for it this time, but it still wasn’t enough to git ‘er done. Sometimes it seems like Council’s discussions just expand to fill available space, like any other gas. Councillor Neale commented at one point, “We spend five minutes on million-dollar expenses and an hour on the small amounts.”

Highlights or lowlights, depending upon your point of view:

  • Councillor Neale asked again about a $50,000 safety concern, that being the exhaust, appliance and fire suppression systems at the Port Robinson and Allanburg Community Centres. To limit liability, Council decided to turn off the gas to the two centres’ kitchens, to buy them time until they decide what to do with the centres themselves.
  • Councillor Whelan asked about the heat for the meeting room in Fire Station #3 and was told that Chief Seth was getting it done, but not this week. The money for this was passed at a previous meeting.
  • Councillor Whalen asked for a $7,000 fence to be put around the lot that formerly had the old Parks Barn, due to a safety concern, but they decided to wait until Council had a report from the Parking Committee because it just might be used for parking yet.
  • Councillor Paone asked what happens to a levy increase on a one-time small equipment purchase in the next budget year. The answer: put it in a reserve for the next one-time small equipment purchase. Once a tax is raised, it stays raised.
  • The gate at the cemetery will be repaired at a cost of $20,000 but won’t affect taxes – it will be paid for out of the Mausoleum and Cemetery Reserves.
  • Councillor Ugulini moved that the City add the extended service of Port Robinson and Allanburg to the reduced hours schedule for Thorold South. Council was warned by the CAO that if they add these locations, they would also have to add ParaTrans service as well, something he had no costing for. There was a discussion about the usefulness of transit being offered only 3 hours in the morning and 3 in the afternoon, especially for shoppers and such. In the end, they decided to go with it, at a cost of $5,000 plus the ParaTrans costs, which they didn’t budget for.
  • There was a great deal of talk about Community Grants, including the staff recommendation of eliminating them, either immediately or in stages. Mayor Luciani, who doesn’t make many speeches in Council, made his point well known. “I have a problem even touching these at all,” he said. “It just doesn’t show respect to the volunteers. It’s too important to the community.” They voted unanimously to leave the $33,000 for Community Grants plus $11,400 in Economic development grants and a sum for Committee grants static. Councillor Ugulini also defended the expense. “That $33,000 is probably the best money we’ve spent in that budget.
  • There was a presentation of a plan to live stream Council meetings with multiple mini-cams, which the presenter already does for Wainfleet Council. The sessions would be accessed through U-Tube and archived on the city’s own U-Tube channel, with a link on the City’s website. After discussing the need for tenders, how long the company had been in business and whether any other options had been considered (Dec. 2), they voted to run as pilot project, saying that it was good for democracy and might even result in better voter turnout. They budgeted $8,833, project to start probably in the spring.
  • Rather than give you all the arguments pro and con, here are the results of the debates on recreational user fees and ice time:
    • Swimming (including season passes) – up 25%.
    • Seniors skates will be $20 per person for the season, beginning in September.
    • A charge has been added to turn on the lights at adult field sporting events. Minor sports will not be affected.
    • All field sport teams will pay a $10 per participant per season user fee.
    • The suggested elimination of ice time subsidies for minor sports was turned down, but the Juniors will have to pay the full rate starting next season.

The upshot of all the changes, with some additions, some deletions, some costs moved to other funding sources, and new user fees left the 2016 budget meeting at 5.08% or approximately $57.92 for the year on an average assessment.

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