Growing the city’s emergency services, including expanding paramedic, fire and bylaw staffing, is the biggest expenditure in what community and protective services committee chair Diane Deans calls “a stay-the-course budget.”
The committee unveiled the community and protective services draft budget Thursday. While the net increase for the $975-million budget — which makes up 47 per cent of the city’s budget — is 1.2 per cent, the tax rate impact is 0.5 per cent, said Steve Kanellakos, deputy city manager of city operations.
“There’s no big spending,” said Deans. “This is all about staying the course and providing the services and programs that our community needs and wants in as cost-effective a manner as possible.
“It does not recommend any significant reductions in programs and services … That means that public health, social housing, child care, employment and financial assistance, long-term care, arts and culture, parks and recreation — all of those programs are basically staying the course,” she said.
The biggest increases come in the form of 63 new paramedics and 20 new firefighters for the new west-end station and seven new bylaw officers.
The aging population has grown the demand for paramedic services, she said. After looking at what was putting pressure on the paramedic service, Deans said “we realized that we were not funding the service to keep up with the demand.”
“In emergency service, every minute is lives,” she said. “This is not an area to be trifled with and we felt our responsibility was to recommend that we fund this area because of its essential nature.”
Most of the increases in this budget are a reflection of inflation or cost-of-living increases, said Kanellakos.
The community and protective services draft budget will be tabled and debated at the committee meeting next Thursday.
On Nov. 17, the audit budget and finance committee will receive all the budgets from all the committees and get a fuller picture of what the 2010 budget will look like, said city treasurer Marian Simulik.