Knife coming out on city’s draft budget

There is no way anyone is going to approve a 9.6 per cent hike in the city’s property tax rate, insist members of the city’s finance committee, who are meeting to discuss the city’s draft budget Friday.

Chair of the transportation committee Coun. Maria McRae said councillors and city staff are looking for more areas to trim from their departmental budgets in order to get closer to the proposed increase of 3.9 per cent.

Despite a draft transportation budget that remained virtually the same as last year, McRae said she thinks they could find almost $300,000 in savings, but it’s going to be very tight.

“It’s a question now of how much closer to the bone can we get, because we know we’re getting close,” said McRae.

The largest proposed increase came from the transit budget, which is estimated to increase by 16 per cent.

Chair of the transit committee Bay Ward Coun. Alex Cullen said that included an arbitration award from the transit strike, which, when removed from the total, would leave the increase at eight per cent.

“What I’m hoping the committee won’t do is cut bus service,” said Cullen. “It wouldn’t make sense to increase fares and cut service at the same time.”

Chair of the city’s corporate services committee Cumberland Ward Coun. Rob Jellett said the challenge will be to reduce the increase while not cutting services.

If a department is asking for a five per cent increase, maybe they can make things work with just three per cent more, he said.

“That’s a much more rational approach than to go through and say we’re going to close libraries and fire stations, because we’re not going to do any of that,” he said. “That would be crazy.”

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