CBRM budget proposal paints bleak economic picture
Severe job and service cuts among recommendations to keep CBRM financially afloat
The Cape Breton Regional Municipality has begun, what the mayor is calling, the "ugly" task of finalizing the budget for the next year.
The first draft of the budget suggests there will be cuts to both jobs and services.
However, there is a small glimmer of good news.
"I will not be recommending a tax rate increase in CBRM in the base rate," said Marie Walsh, CBRM’s chief administrator.
Most of the good news for taxpayers ended there. Walsh outlined a much darker scene for the municipality’s bigger picture.
The budget proposal cuts 29 positions from the CBRM including 12 from public works, nine crosswalk guards and three high-paying police department jobs.
CBRM will borrow money this year but only enough to equal its annual debt payment — that means there will be no reduction in the debt this year.
Staff also said transit hours will have to be cut by 200 hours a week in order to save money.
Public works recommends reducing the number of street lights.
Another key issue discussed is the money it costs to run the Centennial Rink.
Closing the rink would save CBRM $250,000 this year — but that would leave a lot of hockey teams high and dry — so council agrees that point needs more discussion.
During the budget debate, there was a lot of talk about the state of streets and roads in the municipality.
Coun. Ray Paruch, District 6 councillor, said Reeves Street in Ashby is so full of potholes people are asking that the pavement be torn up and it be converted to a gravel road.
For the second year in a row there's no money in CBRM’s capital budget for regular paving.
CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke said he plans to send a letter to Municipal Affairs Minister Mark Furey, asking for an independent audit of the council's finances.
Clarke said council does not think provincial staff are giving Furey the true financial picture. He said paving and other big money projects are not possible without provincial money, and he said an audit will prove that.
Budget talks continue Wednesday and again on Thursday, if necessary.
CBRM's budget proposal totals just under $143 million for operations and $35.5 million for capital projects.