Budget demands vex Sudbury city councillors
Some Sudbury councillors suggest giving up pet projects for their wards
Sudbury city councillors are asking themselves some hard questions about the municipal budget as they aim to keep taxes low amidst crumbling infrastructure, rising costs and provincial funding that is disappearing.
Council received a three-year financial forecast from staff at last night's meeting.
The report predicted steadily climbing property tax rates to pay for rising employee costs and vital infrastructure repairs.
Several councillors wondered how to keep taxes low, without cutting city services too deeply.
Coun. Jacques Barbeau said some of the blame falls on the council table.
"We are our own worst enemy and we continue to ask for a park here and a park there and it goes on and on," he said.
"We are adding to our problem. You want something in your ward? You might have to give something up."
Coun. Dave Kilgour said the real answer is for council to show restraint, give up on pet projects in their wards and follow the fiscal plan staff have drawn up.
"The myth is we have a plan," he said. "The reality is we don't follow the damn thing very well."
Coun. Frances Caldarelli said she is tired of being on the budget merry-go-round.
She said she sometimes feels like "a rat on a wheel and it just goes round and round ... especially when we're talking about the budget."
Caldarelli proposed a special committee look for ways to fix vital infrastructure and maintain city services, without huge tax hikes.
But councillor Ron Dupuis suggested a more direct route.
"I want to see where we would be if we had a 5 per cent cut in our budget, across the board, he said, noting tax dollars might be saved from empty transit buses or overly quiet libraries.
But other councillors said a sweeping cut like that only hurts citizens.
City council voted to hold some special meetings looking at these big financial questions, before the budget talks get started this fall.