Thriftiness was the order of the day when councillors heard budget requests from the city's boards and agencies Thursday at city hall.
The Hamilton Public Library, the Hamilton Conservation Authority, the Grand River Conservation Authority, the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and the Hamilton Waterfront Trust all came in with no increases on their proposed budgets — much to the delight of the councillors in attendance.
Conservation Halton requested a 2.5 per cent municipal contribution hike from the city.
Ward 5 Coun. Tom Jackson applauded the Hamilton Public Library for keeping costs under control in difficult times.
"In spite of the computer age we live in ... circulation and personal visits are demonstrating the traditional aspect that libraries are still a destination in our community," Jackson said.
According to documents circulated by library staff, there were 3.8 million visits to their facilities in 2012, down from 4.1 million in 2011 — likely due to the six-month closure of the Terryberry branch for renovations.
But keeping costs down is becoming more and more difficult, some councillors say.
"Each year … it becomes just that little bit more difficult to come in at zero," said Coun. Brian McHattie, who has been the chair of the Hamilton Conservation Authority for two years.
"Eventually, these zero per cents will come back to haunt us," agreed Coun. Robert Pasuta.
But the Hamilton Conservation Authority isn't doing too badly — in fact, it received $700,000 in donations this week alone — $500,000 from the federal government and $200,000 from the Ontario Heritage Trust.
McHattie also said he plans to push for a full time volunteer co-ordinator for the Westfield Heritage Village. Five full-time employees and seven part-time staff currently run the historical attraction, but 250 volunteers keep the place going, he said.
HECFI, police not ready
Both HECFI and the Hamilton Police Service didn't present their budgets Thursday.
HECFI didn't present its budget because of "current events." Hamilton councilors have deferred changing the terms of a deal with Carmen's Inc. to run the Hamilton Convention Centre because of confusion over how much the company will save the city in the first year.
"I'm a little surprised HECFI doesn't want to present." Jackson said. "In light of some discrepancies ... I had my own questions for management and staff."
The police budget presentation has been rescheduled for a later date.
The Hamilton Police Services board voted 5-2 in favour of a 3.9-per cent budget increase on Monday. It had been reduced twice leading up to the meeting.
On Friday, the city will hear requests from the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hamilton Art Gallery among others.
All city departments had previously been directed to kibosh increases in their budgets whenever possible.