The new Cranbrook city council had its first stab at budget matters as it looked over a number of items, chief among them the 2015 Roads program and 2014 Carry Forward projects.
The meeting took place on Wednesday, Jan. 14 at city hall and drew a big crowd that stayed for the three hour meeting.
The majority of the meeting involved Charlotte Osborne, Director of Finance and Computer Services, going through the Carry Forward items and having city department staff answer any questions that mayor and council had.
The Carry Forward Projects are projects that weren’t complete in 2014, and had to carry through to 2015, however with a new council eager to cut spending in certain areas the there were a lot of questions.
At the end of the section, city staff asked for a resolution to pass the carry forward items, Osborne noted that council could ask for more information on projects it was not yet knowledgeable on. The list of potential objections was too long, however, and the carry forward items had to be put off until the next meeting.
“If we approve to continue on with some of them, when do we decide the ones we’re not going to (continue)?” Mayor Lee Pratt asked, noting there were more than the three or four items that Osborne had heard objection on.
Chief Administrative Officer Wayne Staudt put forward the big picture for Council’s reflection.
“What you have here in front of you are projects that were approved by previous councils, and by and large most of them we are pretty committed to,” Staudt said. “Either there’s P.O.s [purchase orders] outstanding, there’s work outstanding … So certainly some of them we can have a second look at, but to actually kill a lot of these projects would be extremely difficult at this time.
“There’s additional information to give you more comfort with what the project is about, like the LED street lighting project, which is one of the larger ones here at $151,000.”
Coun. Wesly Graham had some issues with the LED street lighting costs.
“The contract that we have with BC Hydro, we’re pretty committed to this,” Staudt said. “They’re picking up half of the salary of the energy manager here — that was to get projects like this dealt with and on the road.”
Staudt said that the previous council has, to some extent, tied the hands of the new council.
He went on that grant money has also been received, making thing more complicated.
“(Like) every new council, when you come in, you’re going to be having to carry on with a certain amount of work that was brought into 2014 and has to be completed in 2015,” Staudt said. He noted the city has also already taxed for the projects.
“We’ve put in previous financial plans which were approved by the public, taxes were raised, funding has been raised —whether it be grants or whatever — so it’s not like we’re asking this to be a new tax item.”
Graham didn’t agree.
“Bottom line if there is something council doesn’t want to fund we don’t fund it,” Graham said.
Coun. Tom Shypitka said he thought councillors weren’t quite clear on what was granted and what could be differed or outright cancelled.
Coun. Norma Blissett said she thought staff had made it fairly clear whether there were P.O.s out, whether the projects were being funded by grants.
“They talked about there were some projects that hadn’t started yet — the micro generation was one,” she said. “But most of them were on the go. I feel comfortable with this. As we were going through it we commented on each one — that’s what we spent the last couple hours on.”
Council did pass one item which dealt with continuing projects at the airport, including the airport parking lot expansion project, which has been adjusted to $350,000, from the original budget of $200,000.
The rest of the carry forward items were put off to the Feb. 4 budget meeting.