Budget-cutters get their first taste

By David F. Rooney

Citizen budget cutters representing the Chamber of Commerce and residential property owners got their first taste of action as they sat in on Council’s review of the preliminary 2011-2015 financial plan.

And while they seemed to like what they heard and saw, they’re hoping for a different venue when it comes down to performing surgery on the municipal budget.

“This is way too bureaucratic,” said Dale Morehouse, one of three property owners (the others are Betty Sloan and Bob Melnyk) asked to help Council identify things that can be pared away.

Bart Larson, one of the Chamber’s representatives participating in this process (the others are Brydon Roe and Arvid Zakary), said trying to trim fat from the budget during a formal Council meeting is not ideal.

“It really should be a workshop format,” he said outside the Council Chambers Tuesday.

Be that as it may, Council did identify a number of things worth about $126,500  it could slice from the financial plan — or defer until a future date — without too much trouble. They include $80,000 in software for the Parks and Recreation Department, $10,000 for ToughBook portable computers for the Fire Department, $11,000 in electronic readers for Councillors and staff, new Computer Assisted Design workstations, a wiring project in the administration offices at City Hall and other proposals.

Just as they did last year, Councillors are — under the guidance of City Finance Director Graham Inglis — going through the financial plan line by line. There are two differences between then and now, however. They have started a whole month earlier and they are under heavy pressure to cut the budget and keep a lid on taxes.

Much of that pressure has come from the business community. That’s why Councillors agreed at their November 23 meeting to work with three Chamber members and three residential property owners to find ways to trim the fat from the financial plan.

“There’s no question we have to find some cuts in here,” Mayor David Raven said at the meeting.