Grassroots angst over municipal budget cuts is growing

Members of the public are waking up to the fact that proposed five or 10 per cent cuts to the municipal budget would have a drastic effect on services they and their children rely on heavily. Here, Sonia Cinelli of the group, Take A Stand! Say NO to this plan, outlines her group’s concerns about proposed five and 10 per cent cuts to the municiipal budget during a Monday morning meeting with Mayor David Raven. David F. Rooney photo

By David F. Rooney

Members of the public are waking up to the fact that proposed five or 10 per cent cuts to the municipal budget would have a drastic effect on services they and their children rely on heavily.

“People are speaking out on our Facebook page,” said Sonia Cinelli who initiated a group called Take A Stand! Say NO to this plan on the popular social networking site last Thursday.

“The effect of the cuts is really starting to hit home. In the last four days we’ve gained 253 members and 106 have signed the petition we want to present to Council.”

The online petition says: “We, the undersigned, disagree with the Committee of the Whole’s recommendations to council.

“We strongly disagree with the recommendations put forth in this report in dealing with our Parks and Recreation Department”.

Cinelli says she has known for three weeks that Council was contemplating the cuts of five or 10 per cent but was at a loss of what to do about it. She also wanted to read the memorandum to Council from Finance Director Graham Inglis that outlined potential cuts — and their consequences — suggested by senior municipal staff. But she couldn’t find it anywhere on the City’s website. Then someone sent her a PDF copy of it and what she read convinced her some kind of public action was necessary.

The memo outlines options available to Council should it decide to slash the budget by five or 10 per cent.

A passionate and committed member of the community who has never been afraid to say what she thinks, Cinelli started a Facebook page and sent out an appeal to her friends and acquaintances across the city. Here’s what she wrote:

“The report is 13 pages long so to give all of you the idea of what might happen to your area of interest here’s the recreational example:

  1. Reduced staff hours at the pool, arena and Community Centre. Which will result in shorter opening times and staff availability i.e. programs such as Karate, boot camp, aqua fit, swim lessons, Noon shoot, school programs usage for the physical education programs will be limited.
  2. Less public skate time, reduction to parent & tot skate
  3. Eliminate early morning skate for figure skating.
  4. Minor hockey change some of their hours.
  5. Charge the Grizzlies more for game times.
  6. Increase user fees for hotel’s & motels for using the pool.
  7. Change collective agreement for arena coverage and provide staff on an as need basis.
  8. Lane swim constrictions
  9. Pool will need to be closed some of the existing operational hours.
  10. Limitation of school usage.
  11. Two extra weeks of shutdown at the pool. Staff will be laid off or holidays taken.
  12. Stricter Scheduling of swim lessons, Aqua Ducks and lane swim, aqua fit.
  13. If this isn’t enough this proposal reflects less operational hours for users at all facilities, and request there be an increase user fees for all groups and users.

“So how does this make you feel? Please speak up, speak for your children or better yet, Have your children write a letter stating how they feel if there program or facility of choice and club or organization where too be reduced or taken away.”

Passionate stuff and it has struck a real chord within the community, particularly among women who care deeply about the activities and recreational opportunities available to their children.

On Monday morning Cinelli marched into Mayor David Raven’s office to present her group’s concerns. The meeting was apparently amicable and informative for both her and the mayor.

“He listened quite seriously to our concerns and told me I should put our concerns in writing for Council,” she said.

Although it may be too late for Cinelli and some of her supporters to appear before Council when it meets as a Committee of the Whole on Tuesday, they will almost certainly appear as a delegation during its formal meeting at 3:30 pm on February 22.

Ideally, their comments and concerns will not be too late to be effective.