Council quibbles over Thunder Bay 2014 budget
One city councillor is unhappy with the new number of staff positions created in this year's budget.
At a meeting Wednesday night, budget chair Mark Bentz said he feels the city should not be creating the equivalent of 20 full time jobs — and there needs to be cuts.
"At the end of the budget, if we haven't done anything on staffing, I'd just prefer to say to our administration finds ‘X’ number of positions [and] they will prioritize."
Last year he requested to eliminate five positions and said administration followed through.
Bentz said he would like to see the jobs cut through attrition.
Other councillors put amendments on the floor, trying to cut the budget.
"I'm trying to figure out how we don't have to pay for this. That's what I'm trying to do." Coun. Rebecca Johnson said.
But they couldn't agree on any of the modifications — from eliminating security at night at Chippewa Park, to reducing a call-taking position for nuisance trees.
"I go down swinging again. Thank you,” Coun. Aldo Ruberto quipped.
One cut that was approved was $80,000 from the development services budget for a study that would look at development fees for new homes.
But not before Coun. Joe Virdiramo had this to say:
"This whole process is about budget. About setting the tax levy and setting how much people are going to pay in taxes. And, we have an item here, $80,000, somebody's trying to cut it - but it's not going to make any difference in the budget! So, what's the point?"
What was approved during budget talks?
- An expansion of a part-time position that deals with nuisance tree complaints. Council heard how, last year, a record number of calls were received at the city, dealing with dangerous branches to dripping sap. Paul Fayrick, manager of parks, said it's too much to handle with current staffing. It will cost the city about $20,000 per year.
- Councillors approved roughly $1 million in funding to draw up designs for a new building for the art gallery on waterfront. Two-thirds of the money could be reimbursed, if federal and provincial funding comes through.
- Council also approved winding down a program that gravelled and graded back lanes, which will result in savings of about $50,000.
- More than $2 million in Thunder Bay's capital budget will go to storm sewer work. Some storm sewer outfalls will be enlarged, while lines will also get replaced in the Grandview area. The city is awaiting the results of its storm water management plan, and will make improvements based on the recommendations.
- A number of improvements to city parks were also approved. A $250,000 study has been given the green light to look at reducing congestion at the north end of Marina Park, near the festival area. Council also approved money to update the Chippewa Park master plan. A proposal is also underway to create an off-leash dog park at Centennial Park.
The final night of budget deliberations will be next week.