A city councillor has already proposed nine motions to cut spending in the 2018 city budget.
Coun. Sheena Hughes filed motions this week to cut the proposed tax rate of 2.9 per cent down to 1.5 per cent and reduce the number of staff to be hired next year by half.
City council will debate these and any other motions during two dedicated budget meetings on Nov. 28 and 30.
“I take the budget very seriously,” Hughes said.
“It’s a mandate of mine to get value for our tax dollars.”
Hughes has also filed motions to postpone projects in the utilities budget, which she said would help to lower proposed utility rates. Other motions would delay a tree canopies pilot project, and reduce the number of extra full-time-equivalent positions suggested in the budget from 14 to seven.
Hughes said she’s most looking forward to the discussions on tax reduction and staff reduction.
Both motions, if passed, would put the responsibility on administration to find efficiencies.
Hughes said the change to the tax rate would bring it more in line with the consumer price index, which is closer to what residents experience.
As for reducing full-time-equivalent positions, she said it would be up to administration to decide what their top priority would be for seven positions.
This motion would aim to bring St. Albert’s staff growth more in line with population growth, she said.
Committee questions tree canopy project
A pilot project aimed at enhancing St. Albert’s tree canopy piqued the interest of councillors during the first special budget meeting of the season.
Councillors gathered at city hall Thursday for a committee of the whole meeting, where they received budgetary presentations on the city’s infrastructure and development services division. Among the proposed capital projects for the public works department in 2018 is a $75,000 pilot project for a tree canopy expansion program.
The premise of the program is that St. Albert would encourage residents to plant trees on private property by providing up to $150 per household toward the cost of the tree.
Glenn Tompolski, general manager of infrastructure and development services, said the city has been aiming to grow its tree canopy but has limited options in newer neighbourhoods such as North Ridge.
“What we want to do is encourage more planting of trees on private property in newer areas, because there’s just less green space for us to plant our own trees,” Tompolski said.
Ideally the city would want trees with larger canopies, although shrubs and lilacs could qualify as well.
At a maximum of $150 per household, the project would fund 500 households.
City staff said they haven’t determined the demand for the program yet but hope it will be quite high.
The project was one focus of questions from councillors Ken MacKay and Ray Watkins and resulted in a motion from Coun. Sheena Hughes to postpone the project to 2020.
‘Emergent’ project included in presentation
City staff want $72,000 to reclaim a city-owned property on Sir Winston Churchill Ave.
The property, located at #1 Sir Winston Churchill Ave., includes a house that is currently being rented out.
The project was not included in the draft budget. Tompolski described it as an “emergent” case that came up over the summer.
“This is a one-time business case request that was not anticipated (when the) budget was presented,” he said.
“It is to reclaim city-owned land, dispose and demolish vacant structures and prepare the base for future city requirements.”
That includes demolishing the house, which Tompolski said is not suitable for occupation unless the city wanted to spend a lot of money on it.
The project brings the tally of proposed operating projects for the infrastructure and development services division to six. Other projects include $50,000 for a corporate environmental risk assessment, $43,200 for an electrical safety codes officer, $93,100 for an infrastructure asset co-ordinator and $17,500 for a community survey on environmental issues.
Presentations from city divisions continue Nov. 14 with divisional presentations will include outside agencies, and community and protective services. On Nov. 16 councillors will receive presentations from the city manager’s office and corporate services. City councillors have until Nov. 20 to file motions to change the budget, which is currently estimated at $103 million.