Proposed jobs in crosshairs during Yellowknife council budget debate

Though only a few weeks into the job, Yellowknife’s new city council is not shy about making its mark on the 2019 budget.

Council split on some cuts, unanimous on others

During debate of the operations and maintenance budget Monday night, council voted against a number of new positions city administration had proposed, including a climbing wall co-ordinator, library assistant and booking clerks. (Priscilla Hwang/CBC)

Though only a few weeks into the job, Yellowknife's new city council is not being shy about making its mark on the 2019 budget.

During debate of the operations and maintenance budget Monday night, council voted down a number of new positions city administration had proposed — including a climbing wall co-ordinator, library assistant and booking clerks.

The draft budget proposes adding the equivalent of 5.7 full-time employees to the 238 the city has on its payroll this year, according to city staff.

The additions of these positions would add a total of $575,000 in wages and benefits to the city's operational expenses next year, according to a city finance official.

I didn't realize my motion would be decreasing knowledge and literacy across the North.- Coun . Robin Williams

The debate over cuts often split council.

Several councillors who supported adding a full-time library assistant talked about the importance of addressing low levels of literacy in the territory and revitalizing downtown, where the library is located.

That surprised rookie councillor Robin Williams, who introduced a motion in opposition to adding the position.

"I didn't realize my motion would be decreasing knowledge and literacy across the North," he said.

"I was thinking we would maintain levels [of service] we offer residents, as opposed to constantly increasing the size of our government."

Williams' motion passed by one vote.

Human-resources officer position survives debate

The margin was the same, though the vote went the other way, after debate around adding a human resources officer focused on workplace safety.

Coun. Shauna Morgan, who supported the new position, noted some councillors who opposed it had earlier supported, for the sake of public safety, adding traffic lights to a main intersection at a cost of more than $700,000.

"Now we're talking about a two-year position of perhaps $300,000 so we can prevent our entire staff from getting hurt, some of whom do very dangerous jobs every day," said Morgan.

Councillors voted unanimously to delete the proposed position of climbing wall co-ordinator from the budget, as well as part-time booking clerks for the fieldhouse. Council also removed part-time positions administration said were necessary to maintain parks and trails.

The draft budget proposes spending $94.5 million in 2019, about a five per cent increase over budgeted spending this year.

Council is scheduled to adopt the 2019 budget on Dec. 10.