The city’s budget is tentatively lighter after council pared it down by more than $1 million.
Council shaved the budget items from various departments at a pair of special meetings over the past 10 days. The final budget must be passed by May 15.
The highest ticket item councillors tentatively shelved was $500,000 meant for development of the former plywood site.
Some councillors had a difference of opinion with Mayor John Douglas about the matter. “I agree with the beach. But we don’t have a vision and I don’t agree with putting in another half million dollars,” Coun. Jack McLeman said.
The city should consider soliciting help from service groups to improve the beach, Coun. Cindy Solda said. Douglas disagreed, however. “The property sat for 20 years and all we did was pollute it,” he said, further calling the move a “grave error”.
Councillors also moved to cut the $250,000 slated for the Harbour Quay clock tower repair. The clock tower isn’t in danger of falling over, and postponing the work will give officials time to decide what’s going to happen with the quay, Coun. Jack McLeman said.
Council also removed $200,000 from the fire department’s budget. The money was in the 2015 budget to replace the department’s tanker truck.
Councillors also passed motions to reduce signage in South Port to $5,000 and to chop $20,000 in contract services from the economic development budget. A motion to add a half-time person to the department was tabled pending cost sharing with the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District.
Councillors approved the purchase of an electric Zamboni was approved: $110,000 for the equipment replacement reserve fund and $60,000 from the carbon reserve fund. A motion was made that will see all further Zamboni replacements underwritten with money from the carbon reserve fund instead of the ERRF account.
Council made another series of recommendations in a subsequent meeting.
They voted to reduce their travel expense budget from $56,000 to $45,000.
As well, they voted to go ahead with the $250,000 in repairs and improvements to the Kitsuksis Creek bridge at Gertrude Street.
Also, a motion was passed that would see $200,000 transferred from the Land Sale Reserve fund to the engineering department, where it will be earmarked for road improvements.
And the SPCA will see a five per cent increase to its budget stand. The extra funds are to help the organization cope with additional duties which include handling dangerous dog complaints, and with a too-many-cats per household bylaw.
The SPCA is also expected to handle chickens under a new chicken bylaw.
The birds won’t be housed in a new $5,000 coop, but will be brought to a farm instead.
Council voted down Douglas’ request that $24,000 be added to IT’s budget to facilitate webcasting and digital archiving of council meetings.