Alberni city departments make budget pitches

Alberni's budget process started with presentations from the city’s IT department, human resources, admin and SPCA on Monday.

Enhanced services and a recommendation for increased city councillor training underpin budget increase requests from some city departments.

The budget process kicked off with pitches from the city’s IT department, human resources, administration and the SPCA at city chambers on Monday afternoon.

The presentations follow the budget overview, which was presented to the public last week at the Capitol Theatre.

The Information Services department is projecting a $499,000 budget for 2012, which is more than the $382,000 it came in at last year.

Big-ticket items on this year’s IT budget for this year include $17,000 to buy and install the Electronic Homeowner Grant. They system would allow citizens to claim their Provincial Home Owner Grant online using the City’s website instead of coming to City Hall or mailing in the application.

As well, $135,000 is earmarked every year for software licensing. This is eligible for a municipal discount.

Succession planning, retraining staff and health and safety issues revolve around the Human Resource Department’s request for budget increases this year.

Two out of seven managers and 27 employees are eligible to retire any time now. Long time employees amass corporate knowledge over years therefore comprehensive succession planning is needed to maintain continuity, manager Theresa Kingston said.

There were 108 first aid reports with city staff in 2011 that resulted in 481 lost days of work. Therefore, health and wellness initiatives are a priority.

The department is requesting $30,000 to underwrite a half-time CUPE clerical position as well as a $2,500 increase in its advertising budget to publicize job openings outside of traditional news publications.

The department is also requesting a $3,700 increase in its employee wellness budget for education events and workshops.

Kingston also recommended increasing council’s travel and training budget by two per cent from $25,585 to $26,662. “I don’t believe that council’s training budget is high enough,” Kingston said. “You need to invest in people.”

Changes to the administration department are going to change its bottom line.

The department has undergone restructuring as part of a review last year. A new corporate services department has been created that will be overseen by human services manager Theresa Kingston. Emergency preparedness and information services will now fall under Kingston’s purview.

The new department has $42,000 baked into it to pursue sustainability issues.

Coun. Hira Chopra asked if Kingston would be paid more for her new responsibilities. Watson replied no.

The SPCA, which has an animal control contract with the city, has asked for a 10 per cent increase to its $111,000 budget, which hasn’t been increased since 2006, manager Irene Towell said.

Operating expenses for the pound have increased by 25 per cent since 2006, going from $267,000 six years ago to $321,000 in 2011.

The city’s five-year financial plan can be found at the city’s website. Department presentations can be found there as well.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com