Council endorsed the city’s financial plan Tuesday evening but not before Coun. Andy Adams expressed his disappointment at nearly missing his chance to speak and vote on the budget.
Council gave first three readings to the 2013-2017 financial plan – which includes the 2013 budget and a 3.91 per cent residential tax increase – at this week’s council meeting after it was put off from last week on a deferral motion by Coun. Claire Moglove.
City staff had organized a special council meeting for last Tuesday afternoon specifically to pass first, second and third reading much to the dismay of Adams who was away on holidays last week.
“I’m sorry I was absent for the special meeting and I was surprised this motion was being brought forward at that time so I want to thank Your Worship and Coun. Moglove for deferring this and allowing me the opportunity as the chair of finance to be here for these readings of the financial plan,” Adams said.
Adams questioned city staff as to their rationale for scheduling first, second and third reading on an agenda last week that “looked extremely light.”
Laura Ciarniello, the city’s general manager of corporate services, responded that city staff were following up on mayor and council’s wishes to have the budget done early this year and were wanting to get the financial plan “before council as soon as possible.”
Adams replied that council and staff spend a lot of time drawing up a schedule so that all councillors are able to attend every meeting and he’s noticed a growing trend of meetings being scheduled with little notice, particularly at the Strathcona Regional District level. He noted that councillors adjust their personal lives in order to make scheduled meetings and appointments.
Meanwhile, the financial plan passed by a vote of 4-3, the same margin as on Jan. 29 when council approved budget decisions made during financial planning meetings.
Adams said while the budget may not satisfy everyone, council agreed to disagree.
“I don’t think we’re ever going to get 100 per cent agreement on what the right number is and I think everyone on council has had their own individual number,” Adams said, who voted in support of the budget and accompanying tax increase. “We’ve come to a number that’s certainly more palatable than where we were a year ago, where it was in my mind, completely off the charts.”
Councillors Moglove, Mary Storry and Ryan Mennie also voted in favour of the financial plan while councillors Ron Kerr, Larry Samson and Mayor Walter Jakeway were opposed.
Jakeway wanted further cuts to reduce the burden on taxpayers while Samson wanted council to dip into the gaming reserve to fund one per cent of the 3.91 per cent tax hike.
The financial plan is now ready for adoption, which will likely happen in two weeks, and once adopted it will be sent to the province.