Tuesday, April 14, 2009  
   Volume 79 - Issue 15 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
Return to Home Page




Council spent more than two hours during its Tuesday, April 7 regular meeting debating the final changes to the 2009 budget. Though there was much disagreement, council appears to have reached its monetary goals, and plans to finalize the budget and mill rate by April 16 at the latest.
Council changed its previous position on plans to change the Seniors’ Tax Rebate, which would have lowered the rebate for eligible seniors. They voted unanimously to keep the rebate as it is. Councillor Ian MacLeod said that council should discuss it again before next year’s budget deliberations.
Council also voted unanimously to enter into an agreement with the RCMP to provide bylaw enforcement services in the Pass. They budgeted enough money to cover the last three months of 2009 if an RCMP officer can be made available for the position by that time.
Other budgetary decisions were not as unanimous. By the end of the night, a majority of council had voted to: not send anyone to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) meeting; to not include committee appointments in this year’s budget discussions; to institute a hiring freeze for 2009; to reduce funding to several outside organizations by 10 percent; to keep a $65,000 corporate review in the budget; to put $40,000 aside for legal fees; to cut the Public Works equipment replacement budget by $100,000; and to not begin a municipal development plan for $50,000.
A report on council’s dicussion on each of these matters follows.
Councillor Ward suggested not sending anyone to this year’s FCM convention in Whistler, which would cost roughly $3000 per person. He said he hasn’t seen value from it. “This is just a luxury we can’t afford in these tough times,” he said.
Councillor Taje recommended sending just a single person, so that the Pass would have a voice in discussions and continue making political connections that work in our benefit. “Being part of that process is not a waste of money at all,” he said.
His motion to send one councillor was defeated 4-3, Councillors Ward, Salus, Cole, and MacLeod opposed.
Councillor Mitchell asked council to consider not putting councillors on as many committees as they currently sit on. He suggested that no councillors should sit on Culture and Recreation, FCSS, Heritage, Centennial, Ecomuseum, Police Advisory, Ski Hill Authority, Trails and Staging Areas, Affordable Housing, and the Ball/Soccer Committee. This would save roughly $7000 in fees paid to councillors for sitting at meetings.
Councillor Cole said that they should wait until the organizational meeting in October to discuss it. Councillor Ward made a motion to table the discussion to a Committee of the Whole meeting in the early summer. This passed 5-2, Mayor Irwin and Councillor Taje opposed.
Hiring Freeze
Councillor MacLeod made a motion to institute a hiring moratorium for 2009. For the most part this motion was aimed at a planned half-year Public Works position for a second municipal lineman in the electrical department. The position would cost $44,000 over six months.
Councillor Taje argued that the second lineman is needed to properly maintain the electrical system. He said that with only one lineman currently, a fair bit of overtime is likely being incurred. Mayor Irwin accused council of trying to manage the municipality, which is administration’s job, instead of govern it.
Councillor Cole suggested that there are no big electrical developments this year, and that council can consider the position again next year. The hiring freeze passed by a familiar 4-3 vote.
Outside Groups
Councillor Ward made a motion to cut funding to several outside groups by 10 percent across the board. The groups receiving this cut are Allied Arts, the Bellecrest Association, the Bellevue Underground Mine, the Hokuto student exchange, Citizens on Patrol, the Coleman Community Society, Doors Open, the Crowsnest Museum, Rum Runner Days, and Thunder in the Valley.
This passed by a 4-3 vote. Councillor Mitchell, opposed, said that he preferred a five percent cut instead.
Corporate Review
A $65,000 corporate review is planned for 2009, but Councillor Mitchell made a motion to eliminate it. A corporate review would look at how administration and council operate and work together in running the municipality.
Councillor Taje said that a corporate review would make more sense at the start of a council’s term than halfway through it. He said he agrees with some of the things it would do but is unsure about a full review at that price.
He said that spending $65,000 on a review while telling the municipality’s best money-maker (the electrical department) that it cannot hire a needed person is wrong. He added that he feels council is seeking a corporate review simply to reinforce its own agendas by reading into it what they want to.
Mayor Irwin noted that council has copies of three corporate reviews done in the last 15 years. The advice in all of them is essentially the same, he said, but all of them are sitting on a shelf and new councils keep ordering new reviews.
The motion to cancel the review was defeated by a 4-3 vote.
Legal Fees
Councillor Cole made a motion to take $40,000 from last year’s surplus and set it aside for legal fees in 2009. Councillor Mitchell said that he feels some of council’s legal moves aren’t even necessary. The motion passed 5-2, Mayor Irwin and Councillor Mitchell opposed.
At this point council had reached its goal of a five percent tax increase, plus $34,000 in either wiggle room or creating a slightly smaller tax increase.
Councillor Ward said that he would like to see a larger surplus, and suggested cutting the Public Works equipment replacement budget from $250,000 down to $150,000.
The equipment replacement budget was put in place by the last council so that the municipality could replace its aging fleet of equipment over the next 15 to 20 years. Public Works planned to replace two pieces of equipment this year, but with the cut would only be able to afford one, likely purchasing a used grader.
CAO Gordon Lundy urged council not to cut this area of the budget. He said that last year Public Works had to pay roughly $200,000 in repairs alone on its aging equipment.
“If you don’t replace that equipment,” he said, “you’ll spend it on maintenance.”
Councillor Taje opposed the idea, saying that if council fails to follow the replacement plan, a future council will be stuck in an even worse position.
“I believe one piece of equipment per year isn’t bad,” said Councillor Cole.
Councillor Ward then said that council could wait and make a decision when they finalized the budget. He said that he wanted more time to think about it.
Mayor Irwin suggested that some of the councillors could hold a caucus to make a decision for council.
Councillor Ward immediately raised his hand. “You know what, John, I changed my mind,” he said, and made a motion to cut the equipment replacement budget by $100,000. This passed by a 4-3 vote.
Development Plan
With this extra room now in the budget, Councillor Taje made a motion to include $50,000 for a new municipal development plan. The current plan is ten years old, and does little to restrict or guide where council should allow development.
Councillor Taje noted that councillors promised to do a new plan when their term started, but it has been cut from every budget since. If it isn’t started this year, he said, there won’t be time to do it next year before the election.
He said that residents should have a chance to say where they want development and how they want their community to grow. He said that he has been assured by MLA Evan Berger that the land use framework created by the province will take municipal development plans into account, but only if those plans are in place.
“This is our last chance to do this,” he said.
Council defeated the motion to start a new plan with another familiar 4-3 vote.
Return to Home Page
   Volume 79 - Issue 15 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
All information on this website is Copyright (c) 2009 Pass Herald Ltd. All rights reserved.
12925 20th Ave, Box 960, Blairmore, Alberta, Canada T0K 0E0
| passherald@shaw.ca
403.562.2248 | 403.562.8379 (FAX)