In the first 2023 budget review session, Council made no decisions but lots of ideas were suggested. The meeting on Tuesday (7 Feb) was chaired by Mayor Cleveland although assisted somewhat by Deputy Mayor Beatty – budget responsibility has not so far been delegated to the Deputy Mayor; that awaits the Governance review. There was not a line by line review – instead the Mayor asked Councillors to talk about any items they wanted to discuss and if there were any changes to be made, that would be noted on a virtual whiteboard for decision at the end of the meeting. Most suggestions required spending more money and a few were for savings. The total was estimated at $600K which would result in another approx. 3% on top of the initial draft estimate of 5.5% (after growth).
The “decisions” will be made on the second budget review day (Thursday 9 Feb) and since they are all being reviewed at around the same time, it will be clear what the tax levy impact will be for each item. The delay gives councillors time to consider what they really want to approve.
Additions and deletions – highlights
Some budgets were approved (at this stage) without change. Both the Art Gallery and Library budgets were “approved” with no changes; and the Town may only approve or disapprove the Police budget as a whole so it was “approved” unchanged.
So what are the suggested changes? Not all changes are contentious or significant but some are. Here is my list of highlights:
Community Grants: Councillor Beatty provided a list of suggested grants that totaled $29,200 but the list was not made available to the public. However, Nicole said that her philosophy was to provide some money to each applicant. Although all councillors did not agree with the list and even wanted more, Councillor Darling suggested that it was time to stop grants altogether. He said that things like the Concert Hall were already subsidized and Council’s job was not to subsidize community groups. He thought it unlikely that any would stop functioning if not given a grant.
Sustainability Officer: A new position was planned but it was not clear that the Town is ready for this – is there enough work for such a person?
Centennial pool. It would cost $19K for maintenance items to extend service for another year and over $100K for pool lifeguards
Trees and beach mat: Aaron Burchat suggested adding $70K for planting trees and $30K for the MobiMat. Director Geerts said that to achieve the Urban Forest goal of 35% tree coverage would require planting 2000 new trees per year until 2035. That compares to 200 per year currently.
Pickleball court: It was suggested that $100K be added for a new pickleball court although this was on condition that the same amount be raised by fundraising
Fundraising: The town can issue tax receipts for donations and community groups could use this if they have a suitable project (e.g. Pickleball court, Centennial Pool, Skateboard Park). Their donation would be to the town but directed to their project.
Emergency Planner: the position is currently vacant and now reports to Brent Larmer instead of the Fire Chief. Maybe this person could be part-time?
Council compensation: Lucas wanted Councillor remuneration be as suggested yesterday by Bryan Lambert and be effective April 1. His suggestion would cost $110K for 2023. The new salaries would be: Mayor – $65,000 (+43%); Deputy Mayor – $52,000 (+67%); Councillor – $45,500 (+75%). See resources to download Bryan’s presentation.
Office of CAO. Lucas wants an additional executive assistant as well as the current executive assistant shared with the CAO. Deputy Mayor Nicole Beatty objected and Miriam suggested this be deferred at least until after the Governance review.
Web site. Lucas wants the Town’s web site to be redeveloped – perhaps the amount in 2023 should be small and just cover exploring the idea. Pricing it?
Items referred to budget deliberations. The Agenda included a list of items “Referred to the 2023 Municipal Budget by Council and Public Budget Submissions”. Some of these are now in the budget, some are now in proposed additions and a few are not included in current budget discussions at all. One suggestion was to discard those not included. Here is the list.
A review of the entire budget was completed by the end of the day when the meeting was adjourned until Thursday 10:00 am. At that time, they will have to decide how many of the additions and deletions will be included. One of the items will be the list of community grants approved, if any. Stay tuned.