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Iqaluit service changes aimed at getting finances in order, says official

Iqaluit's chief administrative officer says he's made it his personal mandate to get the city's more than $8 million debt in order.

The city's debt has accumulated over 3 years of consecutive deficits

Iqaluit's chief administrative officer, Muhamud Hassan, says he's made it his personal mandate to get the city's $8 million debt in order. (CBC)

Iqaluit's chief administrative officer says the city's more than $8 million deficit is unacceptable and continuing to add to the debt load is illegal.

The city's debt has accumulated over three years of consecutive deficits.

"We can't run deficits on an annual basis. Period," says Muhamud Hassan, Iqaluit's chief administrative officer.

"The auditors told us in 2013 we have to complete [the deficit] by 2014. It's 2015."

Hassan points to Nunavut's Cities, Towns and Villages Act, which states that municipal corporations must eliminate any deficit by the end of a fiscal year.

Though that law hasn't been followed by previous administrations, Hassan says he's made it his personal mandate to bring this year's budget back on track.

Hassan says when he started the job in April, staff immediately began amending the budget. 

"So what we did was ask every department to justify their needs. Some were justifiable and any of those that weren't, we cut them off," Hassan explains.

Service changes aim to reduce costs

All city departments were told to reduce costs by 15 to 30 per cent.

To achieve that, all non-essential spending has been put on hold and department heads are looking at ways to save money.

As a result, there have been changes to some city services, which hasn't sat well with everyone.

Homeowners have complained about changes to trucked water schedules in the city, which many say was confusing and poorly communicated. The Nunavut Employees Union has also spoken out, saying tensions between management and firefighters and emergency dispatch operators have reached "a boiling point" after changes to workers' schedules.

Capital projects are also seeing changes.

Hassan says all capital projects are now being funded externally by the Federal government or Nunavut's Department of Community and Government Services.

So far, Hassan says they're on track.

According to the city's 2015 summary of revenues and expenses, it's set to bring in about $2.9 million in surplus from its operating budget this year.

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