Mayor unveils ‘scheme’ to erase a multi-million dollar 2012 budget deficit

Mayor Walter Jakeway lashed out at the city’s spending habits and revealed a plan he developed for reducing a $3.6 million deficit.

Mayor Walter Jakeway lashed out at the city’s spending habits Tuesday night and revealed a plan he developed for reducing a $3.6 million 2012 budget deficit.

Jakeway was dismayed to see several projects that had been put off in previous years, inserted into this year’s budget.

“There are so many projects that are feels goods and nice-to-do’s that don’t need to be done,” Jakeway told council at the city’s financial planning meeting. “There are a lot of ‘carry forwards’. Delete them. If they weren’t good enough for us to do last year, they’re not good enough to do this year.”

Jakeway said he had a solution to the budget that would involve a zero per cent residential tax increase.

“I have a complete scheme of funding the financial plan without touching the gaming reserve at all,” said Jakeway, after council committed to stop relying on reserves to balance the budget by 2015.

Jakeway suggested taking money out of both the operating and the tax stabilization reserves and putting it towards the deficit.

He recommended reducing the fleet replacement reserve by $280,000 as well as taking $160,000 from the storm drainage parcel tax and putting both those amounts against the shortfall.

Jakeway also suggested deleting the city’s ‘carry forwards’ and using the gas tax rebates for downtown improvements.

“In other words, minimize spending,” Jakeway said.

“In 2012 don’t spend anything. Just keep it for us as we need it.”

He also said the city could reduce the sewer operating reserve which would free up $1 million to go toward the budget deficit.

“When you’re all done you get a zero deficit and a zero dollar tax increase,” Jakeway said.

There were just a few problems with Jakeway’s plan.

Laura Ciarniello, the city’s manager of corporate services, said several of the reserves, such as the storm water tax, and the gas tax reserve (Community Works Fund) are very restrictive and can only be used to fund specific projects.

“You suggested the Downtown Revitalization Plan all be funded through the Community Works Fund but it would not be eligible,” Ciarniello said. “The sewer operating is also a restricted reserve, it would go against the Community Charter to use it towards the deficit.”

Jakeway didn’t push the issue any further.

“Okay so I struck out here,” he admitted.

Jakeway, who said last month the budget planning process was taking too long and wanted  things sped up, made a motion to add a fourth financial planning meeting to council’s schedule.

Council agreed to hold a financial planning session in conjunction with the council meeting on April 3.

Jakeway said right now council is “masking the (financial) problem” by moving money around in reserve (savings) accounts.

“We need to cut the cost of the function of this whole operation,” Jakeway said. “Let’s get down to the meat and deal with that.”