Sudbury city council is debating reducing the size of the municipal workforce and seeking more money from the province. 

The preliminary budget proposed by city staff includes $501 million in spending and an annual property tax increase of $70 for the average Sudbury household.

It was presented during the city council meeting on Wednesday.

City councillor Jacques Barbeau says the city needs its complement of 2,000 employees but some of them need to be in different departments.

“There’s no doubt there are departments that are struggling. They're putting in way too many hours,” said Barbeau during the debate. “And we know other departments, quite frankly, there are people twiddling their thumbs."

When considering staff cuts, Barbeau said the city has to be careful not to hurt services on which the public depends.

Councillor Dave Kilgour said the city has to approach cuts cautiously.

"We can't just sit there with our little magic figure and say cut back 10 per cent or cut back two per cent,” said Kilgour. “If we do, it has to be strategically done or we lose in the long run."

Mayor Marianne Matichuk responded by proposing the hiring of a consultant to look at city operations.

Matichuk has talked about "rightsizing" the city workforce during previous budget talks. However, she promised to push for a full review of city staff for 2014.

Staff account for $224 million a year in city spending.

Less polite with Queen's Park

A few councillors suggested that the city should make a more aggressive appeal for provincial funding to help with the municipal budget in the future.

City staff told council on Tuesday that provincial funding formulas often mean northern cities get less than their counterparts in the south.

City councillor Ron Dupuis suggested the city should take a less polite approach to Queen’s Park.

"We're just so nice in northern Ontario. We wouldn't say poop if we had a mouthful,” said Dupuis. “It's just our nature."