by Tristan Turner
Council has unanimously passed second and third reading of Budget 2016 after making hundreds of thousands worth of cuts and a few additions to the budget. The budget as passed would represent approximately a 3 per cent tax increase for Morinville property owners, but 2016 tax rates will not be set until spring.
Cuts hit Library, St. Jean Baptiste Festival, roads and town departments
First on the chopping block was the citizen mobile app that would have allowed citizens to receive information about the town and report things like damage to town roads, or the need for snow clearance. Deputy Mayor Rob Ladouceur originally proposed the app but ended up supporting a unanimous vote to remove it from the budget after Administration identified 75 per cent of respondents to the Citizen Budget Survey had no interest. “The people have spoken, and they don’t want [the app],” Ladouceur said.
Also slashed that evening was $30,000 from the Morinville Community Library requested budget increase. The library has reported to council that they may respond to this by reducing hours and/or removing staff. The cut to the library’s more than $100,000 increase over their 2015 budget request was motioned by Councilor Boutestein. Deputy Mayor Ladouceur and Councillor Brennan Fitzgerald opposed the cut. Councillor Barry Turner abstained from debate and vote due to a pecuniary interest.
An operational project to do annual crack sealing at a cost of $140,000 was cut by $85,0000 to allow a three-year repair cycle. The town has strived for a 4-5 year cycle but has fallen to a 5-6 year cycle in recent years. The cut followed a motion from Councillor Stephen Dafoe. Councillors Turner and Putnam, as well as Deputy Mayor Ladouceur, who advocated for the status quo the Town had been on originally, opposed the motion.
A $140,000 general cut to the budget was brought forward by Councillor Bary Turner, which received unanimous support. Town Administration will come back to Council with a few recommendations where they can trim and where they will find efficiencies.
The Morinville Festival Society’s request for $35,000 in festival funding was cut by $16,500 after a motion from Councillor Dafoe. In addition to the festival funding, the Town provides approximately $16,500 in funding through in-kind services for the summer festival. Dafoe’s motion passed with Councillor Turner and Deputy Mayor Ladouceur opposing.
Council adds over $200,000 for Financial Services Staff, Org Review, RCMP Clerk, free kid’s shows
Council voted to add a couple of new staff positions and new money for the implementation of last year’s Org Review, to the tune of $200,396.
Town Administration had originally requested four new staff positions for 2016. Council approved Councillor Dafoe’s Oct. 27 motion to remove all four positions on the basis any member of Council could add any individual position back in and debate its merits.
Two of the four positions made it back in.
First to be added was the position of RCMP clerk, which sets the Town back $70,138. The position will provide support to the local RCMP detachment and Community Peace Officers in dealing with obligations with paperwork and other administrative tasks. The motion to add it back into the budget was proposed by Deputy Mayor Ladouceur and passed unanimously.
A new accounting position in the Financial Services Department was motioned by Councillor Gord Putnam and received Council’s unanimous support. The new employee, identified in last year’s organizational review, will cost the town $85,258.
Councillor Brennan Fitzgerald moved to add an assistant for the CAO’s office, valued at approximately $93,000, back into the budget for debate. The motion was defeated 6-1 with only Councillor Turner supporting the additional position.
An additional maintenance position for the cultural centre was not brought back onto the table for debate.
Free family entertainment and org review funding
Following an information request from a previous meeting, Councillor Dafoe motioned to make all of the 2016 5th Anniversary concert series children/family events at the cultural centre free, excluding the annual Missoula Children’s Theater event. The motion passed unanimously.
Councillor Turner motioned to add $40,000 for the implementation of items left over from last year’s Organizational Effectiveness and Efficiency Review. The item passed with only Councillor Nicole Boutestein opposing.
Council unanimously passed Second and Third reading as amended, although a motion to defer Third Reading until Dec. 15 failed with only Councillor’s Fitzgerald and Dafoe supporting the motion.
Both comments have merit but, in this case, I must agree with Councillor Defoe’s analysis. The only real point of contention I have with his statement concerns his phrase: “I trust Mr. Schaefer and his staff will figure out how best to manage it.”
Don’t count on it, given their track record over the last couple of years… Someone (??) better keep a weather eye out on this whole project!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!