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City held $1.15 million in operating costs, new staff from 2024 budget

Administration held off on including an additional $1.15 million in operating costs and new staff positions from the proposed 2024 budget, a report to council shows.
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FILE/Photo

Administration held off on including an additional $1.15 million in operating costs and new staff positions from the proposed 2024 budget, a report to council shows.

The proposed budget, released last month, comes with a 5.5 per cent property tax increase and a 7.2 per cent increase in monthly utility bills.

Included in the proposed budget is $1.2 million in new operating costs and staff positions funded through this year's assessment growth, or additional tax revenue that was collected from new properties and not originally budgeted for at the beginning of the year. 

The recent report to council, written by the city's chief administrative officer, Bill Fletcher, explains that in preparation for the proposed budget, administration limited itself to the $1.2 million in new assessment growth available for new operational costs and decided to postpone an additional $1.15 million in operating business cases and staff positions for at least another year.

“For the 2024 budget, the direction was provided to limit new operating business cases to $1.2 million to utilize assessment growth and avoid impact on the tax rate,” Fletcher wrote.

Fletcher was unavailable for an interview, but in an emailed statement, the city's deputy chief administrative officer Kerry Hilts said the operational business cases and staff positions that weren't included in the proposed 2024 budget will be reviewed and considered for inclusion in the 2025 budget.

The postponed business cases and nine staff positions include the hiring of an additional full-time lawyer, a web developer, a diversity and inclusion advisor, another communications advisor, and more.

The additional lawyer, Fletcher's report explains, will eventually be needed to sustain service levels, although having an additional lawyer would allow the city to handle its own bylaw prosecutions for those with unpaid fines which could save the city about $60,000 per year. Despite administration electing to postpone hiring an additional lawyer for at least another year, the proposed 2024 budget does include $30,000 to spend on external legal services as needed.

About the need for a diversity and inclusion advisor, Fletcher wrote that the position would be responsible for establishing an inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility strategy for the city's workforce. 

“While prioritized by council and administration, the organization continues to not have the capacity to action cohesive workforce programs in inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility (IDEA) for employees,” Fletcher wrote, adding that hiring the advisor would “reinforce the organizational commitment to the psychological health and safety of our employees.”

While more than half of the operational business cases administration elected to postpone for at least another year involve hiring additional staff, a few of the business cases would either create new programs or involve purchasing equipment.

For example, one of the business cases is for $12,000 to purchase bicycles and specific uniforms for the city's bylaw enforcement officers to establish a bike patrol program. 

Another example is $50,000 for the city to establish a three-year pilot program to incentivize business competitiveness.

“As a three-year pilot, business competitiveness incentives would be a suite of business incentives available to St. Albert small businesses and aimed at increasing business competitiveness, accelerating their growth and motivating commercial property owners to improve their property,” Fletcher's report explains. 

“If successful, we would propose making it an ongoing program, funded by Out-of-Town Business License fees.”

As of Nov. 7, no member of council has submitted a motion to include any of the soon-to-be postponed business cases or staff positions in the 2024 budget, which council will deliberate and finalize next month.


Jack Farrell

About the Author: Jack Farrell

Jack Farrell joined the St. Albert Gazette in May, 2022.
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