Nearly one-third of city council opposed this year’s approved budget.
The 2014 budget was ratified Monday night 8-4, which will see around a three per cent increase to the city’s tax levy this year. Coun. Rebecca Johnson, who proposed nearly $1 million in cuts throughout the process, voted against along with Coun. Linda Rydholm, Coun. Ken Boshcoff and Coun. Trevor Giertuga. Giertuga said he was fundamentally opposed to a budget that would continue to add city staff. In past years he’s proposed hiring freezes but those haven’t been successful. This year the city will add nearly 17 positions. The city should be trying to maintain or reduce staff.
“I’m not in agreement with consistently adding new staff,” he said.
Boshcoff said the budget process should be trying to find savings. The city can’t just keep spending more money.
“We weren’t trying to constrain. We were just going on business as usual,” he said.
While several amendments of his weren’t passed, something Boshcoff said he understands, the city needs to prepare to find cuts when times are tough.
But Coun. Aldo Ruberto said his colleagues who voted against the budget are at the council table throughout the year when projects are voted on. The city has done a good job keeping increases low while still being able to maintain quality of life, which includes everything from social programs to roads.
“We tried our hardest to keep it as low as possible,” Ruberto said. ““I find it kind of disappointing that some of the councillors voted against it.”
No one wants to see costs go up or taxes increase but just like a home, the city needs to spend money in order to maintain itself. As for the added staff, Ruberto said all councillors know that health and safety requirements have forced the city’s hand to hire some of those positions. And half of the new staff are funded by the province.
“It’s free from the province are we going to turn that away? I don’t think so,” he said. “That’s ridiculous.”
A few last minute additions were lost to ties during the final budget debate.
Coun. Andrew Foulds wanted the city to continue its evening child care pilot program at Grace Remus, which is slated to close by June in the budget.
The city will also reduce maintenance in back lanes around the city despite a proposal from Coun. Joe Viridramo to keep the program as-is.