Prior to the passing of the 2014 operating and capital budgets at the Dec. 16 regular meeting of council, the merits of including items in the $181,500 special operating budget was presented by administration to council.
“One of the things that came out of the Dec. 9 meeting was council indicated they might be willing to fund some expenditures that were removed from the operating budget to get us down to that 1.5 per cent increase,” said Dale Culler, director of corporate services, prior to the vote. “Our forecast is leaning towards a little bit of a surplus, and that’s a good situation to be in from a council perspective. We had a surplus last year as well, and council got the opportunity to be able to put some of that money aside in reserves, or be able to spend it however they may choose.”
The special operating budget items had been cut from the draft 2014 operating budget to reach a council-directed property tax increase of only 1.5 per cent, instead of the originally recommended 2.5 per cent.
Culler did note the prospect of a 2013 operating surplus was by no means a guarantee.
“The concept here would be to re-look at some of these things that were taken out of the budget,” said Culler. “The funding source could then come from the anticipated surplus that may happen — and again, ‘that may happen’ is built into the motion.”
Coun. Jack Brewin requested a clarification a streetlight design standard, an item included in the special operating budget.
“We don’t have a standard for streetlights at all,” said CAO Greg Birch. “We go with whatever we work out with Fortis, our service providers or developers, whatever works. What we’d like to do is be a little bit more proactive in this regard, so the next subdivision through the gate has a lighting plan that’s more future oriented, and in particular, deals with LED lighting.”
Coun. Randy Sparks questioned the need for a recreation master plan.
“In the recent priorities setting that the recreation board did, I don’t think that a recreation master plan was very high on the list, if my memory serves me right. The plan, instead of funding a recreation master plan, was to get all of the user groups together and see where they’re coming from as far as wants and needs for the future. To me, that’s one of the best recreation master plans you can have, is knowing what your user groups, and user people envision for their group for the future. Forty thousands dollars for a recreation master plan seems like a lot of money. It may be fine, but I just think we should kind of let the rec board do what they’ve decided to do to see where they need to be in the future, rather than spending $40,000 on a recreation master plan.”
Director of community services Rob Cressman explained that local input would be integral to any creation of a recreation master plan.
“The amount that’s shown here reflects a number that’s probably about half of what has been presented to council in some earlier years. The thinking here is that administration will be a lot more actively involved than earlier versions that we’ve presented to council. There’s no doubt that there will be input from the local groups and associations. It’s no small undertaking though, and the concept is to plan out a roadmap for the future.”
Council defeated the motion to include the special operating budget by a vote of 3-4. Coun.(s) Randy Sparks, Andrew Prokop, Rick Popadynetz and Joe Strojwas opposed the motion, while Mayor Henk De Vlieger and Coun. (s) Jack Brewin and Laura Ross-Giroux voted in favour.
“I cannot support the motion, I have a hard time supporting forecasted operating surpluses,” said Coun. Sparks. “Even though the budget is fine, I’m just not in favour of all of the items that are included in the special operating budget.”
With the motion defeated, the expenditures included in the special operating budget will not be included in the 2014 operating budget. This includes a town census ($25,000), a records management system ($20,000), sidewalk grates for trees ($5,000), new street planters ($7,500), design standards for new streetlights ($20,000), a Eureka Area Structure Plan ($30,000), a recreation master plan ($40,000), Aquafun Centre upgrades ($12,000), auditorium bar upgrade ($12,000), and Grey and Green meeting room upgrades ($10,000).