Council took out the red pencils Thursday, officially eliminating items in the 2012 five-year-financial plan that will save the city money.
During the three-and-a-half-hour public budget meeting, however, no discussion occurred about the level of taxation, although both councillors Ivan Bonnell and Surinderpal Rathor reminded repeatedly that they want to see no increase.
Most of the cuts came by deferring the purchase of equipment from the equipment reserves fund and staff training and development.
Those items deferred include a skag mower, $15,000; stump grinder, $30,000; wood chipper, $25,000; combination box sander, $55,000; equipment maintenance software, $15,000; and speed signs, $25,000.
There was debate around the $400,000 allocated for replacing the HVAC system at city hall and whether it could be deferred, but staff explained the funds used to cover the project will be derived from the community works funds, a fund augmented to the amount of approximately $483,000 annually with funds the municipality receives from the provincial government.
“We have $830,000 in there right now. The funds have a specific criteria, such as to be used for air quality. If we don’t have projects that meet that criteria we can keep those funds in a reserve for upcoming future projects,” said city financial officer Pat Higgins.
In the end council agreed to leave the HVAC project in the budget.
Under staff development and training, city asked that it be reduced from $189,000 to $138,000.
Earlier that day, however, the city learned that the cost for housing the RCMP will increase from $224,000 a year to $370,000 a year. The current rate the city pays is $107.64 a square metre, whereas it will increase to $214 per square metre.
“A draft letter was sent out of courtesy to the 11 municipalities that will be affected,” explained chief administrative officer Brian Carruthers.
That’s a hit of $150,000 annually, reminded Mayor Kerry Cook.
Carruthers told council the city is negotiating with the RCMP for the possible acquisition of the building. “There would have to be a business case involved to show that it was to our advantage to do that.” He also said when the news came out, all the affected municipalities discussed the fact that municipalities are separating their RCMP costs on tax bills, and have been for a number of years, because it’s one of those items that is always beyond a city’s control.
Council also agreed unanimously that provisional department budgets will be due Dec. 1 each year so council isn’t deliberating over budgets so late in the year. The next budget meeting is today (Tuesday) at 5 p.m.