Council began deliberations yesterday on the City’s 2012 operating budget.
“This year is an interesting budget because it is really moving us forward a great deal. The new strategic direction was a signal that things were going to change and this budget is an important step in this direction of change,” said City Manager Craig Curtis.
He also said it is a very exciting direction but that a number of changes in terms of the money that comes into the City have affected the decisions made.
Some of the focuses of the operating budget come from the strategic direction including movement and safety.
Snow and ice control as well as crime prevention and policing were pointed out as being key areas where money needed to be added as well. Also on this list were municipal services.
“People want clean roads and a safe community. We heard that and have put money where we can,” said Mayor Morris Flewwelling.
If approved, snow and ice control will see $1.6 million in additional funding, $980,000 of which was already approved in the capital budget last November.
The focus of the snow and ice control is on trails and bus stops. Flewwelling explained this fits with the integrated movement study that was done promoting people to use transit.
“We’ve targeted the budget so that when you get off the bus you’re not onto an ice rink or into a snow bank,” said Flewwelling.
In addition, if approved, crime prevention could see an additional $1.4 million including a recommendation for a new criminal analyst position and money towards three additional RCMP members, which was a carry-over from 2011.
“We’re putting $300,000 into our safety charter and as we work through that we will determine how that money will be spent whether it’s on more police officers or on crime prevention. That is continuous funding,” said Flewwelling.
Flewwelling said the money being put into crime and policing is not specifically delegated so that it can later be allotted where necessary.
As for a tax increase, council is currently looking at an increase of 4.55% in 2012.
“This is just a starting point for council to work from,” said Curtis.
Flewwelling said that as the budget sits now with the circumstances of the economy that a tax increase of 4.55% is reasonable but that there will be people who don’t like it.
Flewwelling said the difference between 2011 and 2012 is that the operating budget has to be tighter.
“Growth has been less, interest has been less and land sales have been fewer. It shouldn’t concern residents because what we’ve done is try to maintain service levels and to keep the taxation and fees in line with what would be expected,” said Flewwelling.