Thursday, December 5, 2013
Town’s ’98 budget to see more cuts
Wednesday, 18 February 1998 - 1:00am
Town council will take another stab at the proposed 1998 budget next month, with almost $1 million still needing to be cut if it hopes to maintain a tax freeze for the fifth consecutive year. But whether that can be done won’t be known until the March 16 budget meeting after council gave the town’s four division managers time to pare down their operating budgets.
"It’s getting more difficult each year to maintain a zero tax increase," Mayor Glenn Witherspoon admitted at Monday night’s meeting. "But we’re looking for it without jeopardizing the future of the town." At that meeting, the Committee of the Whole slashed another $1.45 million as councillors took a second whack at the proposed capital budget--line by line. Included in Monday’s cuts were: o$1.5 million from municipal roads, with $500,000 left for that work; o$150,000 for an emergency services vehicle; o$80,000 from the museum renovations project, leaving $50,000 for the museum’s global capital projects budget; o$180,000 for a grader, with $100,000 set aside in reserves for the project; o$6,500 from treasury; o$3,300 for police lockers and chairs; o$2,000 for air conditioner installation at the Sportsplex, with those dollars instead to come from the operating budget; o$30,000 for lights at St. Francis diamond, with $10,000 to be put into reserves for the project; o$18,000 for a computer, printer, and scanner for the Planning and Development Department, with those dollars to be generated through building permit revenue; and o$5,000 for parks picnic tables. In related news, treasurer Carol Busch admitted the town still didn’t have the accurate "mega week" costs, and won’t know what the 1997 surplus is for another two or three weeks. The accurate "mega week" numbers are expected Feb. 20, the mayor said. "I don’t like this approach. I realize we’ve got to make the cuts but there’s got to be a better way to do this," Coun. Struchan Gilson said, with Coun. Dave Bourgeault adding it would be more difficult in 1999. Even with Monday’s cuts, the present budget would mean a 15.7 percent hike in property taxes (it was at 47 percent going into the meeting)--and that includes a $500,000 estimated "education tax room" and the more than $600,000 in uncommitted reserve funds. "Coming to the table tonight, I had no intention of using that [reserve fund] money for the ’98 budget," noted Coun. Deane Cunningham, noting he didn’t think it was good money management. Meanwhile, the cut to the proposed municipal road projects raised some questions about what impact this would have in the years ahead. "If we leave these, do we face a bigger bill down the line?" asked Coun. Sharon Tibbs. "Our roads are in terrible shape, I admit that," noted Operations and Facilities manager Jerry Tetu, stressing if the money wasn’t there, the town couldn’t do all the work that needed to be done. He said some of the proposed projects date back 20 years. "I think that we, as a council, have got to set a reasonable amount of money [for roads]," Coun. Cunningham said, with Tetu recommending $500,000-$600,000 a year be the minimum amount. But Mayor Witherspoon didn’t fear the cut would jeopardize the roads further down the line. "We far exceeded our infrastructure funding last year," he said, noting the town used $2 million from its reserve funds to do that work. Busch suggested council next year look at a five-year plan for each division’s capital projects. "That would give you a better idea of what would need to be done," she reasoned. But while managers are making their recommendations on how to cut operating budgets, Administration and Finance manager Darryl Allan stressed all decisions ultimately would be up to council--and that the managers would have to work within the dollars allotted. "As division managers, we may have our own priorities," he noted. "We can make recommendations to council but I think it’s council who’s really got to say, ‘That may be your priority but it’s not mine.’"