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Tbnewswatch Local News
Thursday August 27 2015
5:25 PM EDT
2014-03-25 at 02:06

Deep freeze

By Jamie Smith, tbnewswatch.com

The city will freeze in more ways than one after a harsh winter.

Council heard Monday that not only was it $3 million over budget in 2013 due to this winter's cold and snow, but that the $4 million budgeted for managing winter in 2014 is already gone.

If the city is hit with a similar winter at the end of 2014, that budget could take another $3.5 million hit.

Transit is already facing a projected to be $420,000 over by the end of the year, the bulk of that coming from rising diesel costs. A jump in natural gas is looking to push the number up another $100,000.

As of Monday, city manager Tim Commisso is reviewing all staff hiring and deferring or eliminating discretionary spending like non-essential travel.

User fees will also be looked at along with a review of all departments for potential reductions, adjustments or restraints.

Further action, which will be discussed Apr.28, might also need to be taken including deferring or eliminating all new jobs in this year's budget.

All non-essential capital projects will be looked at and when a person retires it could be used as an opportunity to streamline and reorganize city departments. It may even re-budget some of what was approved in last month's process.

The city will also re-evaluate the services it provides for winter control. The memo states that administration would usually wait until later in the year to bring up budget variances forward, but it needed to bring the matter to council's attention as soon as possible.

Coun. Rebecca Johnson said a hiring freeze should be the beginning of trying to deal with the overruns.

"It's sad but it’s the reality of it,” she said.

Coun. Andrew Foulds said the issue is serious but administration is already dealing with it and has strategies in place.

"We shouldn't be pushing any panic buttons here," he said.

Mayor Keith Hobbs said he's not happy about it but winter has pushed a lot of city budgets over the edge this year. The memo states Ottawa being $24.4 million over, Calgary doubling its snow removal costs and Windsor adding $1 million to its winter control by January.

"It's the weather and we don't control the weather," he said.

He said city workers have been busy all year clearing snow, fixing water mains and even removing snowbanks. Snowbanks alone cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars, which not a lot of cities remove he said.

"You want the service you have to pay for it," he said.


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