Will it be zero per cent, two per cent, four per cent, five per cent or ten per cent?
Town council will consider those levels of possible budget reductions after approving a motion calling for that at last Monday night’s regular meeting. Council will begin budget deliberations in late January looking at the budget reductions suggested by each department and will look at actuals as quickly as possible, though town administration cautioned that the process may start with projected numbers rather than actuals.
Councillor Diane Pouget, who had suggested a five per cent reduction for each department last term of council only to have it defeated, again brought forth the motion for a five per cent reduction with Councillor Rick Fryer adding the possibility of a ten per cent reduction.
Fryer noted that his workplace looks for ten per cent reductions in its costs and would like to see Amherstburg do the same.
“We can’t sit back and say everything is fine and dandy with a $46 million debt projected,” stated Fryer.
“All of us stated very clearly we have to get our finances in order,” added Pouget. “We have to reduce our budget.”
Pouget said five per cent is “attainable” and preferred to let department heads cut within their own departments as they know better in terms of what can be reduced more than council.
“This is something that is reasonable,” she said. “We are giving sufficient time to examine all the budgets.”
Director of finance Justin Rousseau said the work had already been done projecting what it would look like with zero, two and four per cent budget reductions. CAO John Miceli said some costs are fixed but added that the administration would find the costs necessary that have to be removed from the budget to comply with the direction council will decide on next year.
Rousseau added that there is also a mandate to rebuilt reserves, something that could be affected depending the severity of the cutbacks.
“The impact of cuts may impact the timeline to build the reserves,” said Rousseau.
Town council voted unanimously to proceed with getting the projections of the proposed levels of reductions, though some voiced concerns about the timing of getting the 2014 actuals. Rousseau said while third quarter actuals are finished, getting final 2014 totals will take time. Miceli went as far as to project mid-February or early March before actuals could come before town council.
Councillor Leo Meloche said based on his business background, he knows it takes time for year-end numbers to be finalized. He pressed for caution until those numbers are before town council.
“If we are going to make the right decisions, we have to have the right information,” said Meloche. “We have to give administration time.”
Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale said some members of council voted against last year’s budget due to delays in seeing the previous year’s actuals.
“We need the numbers,” said DiPasquale.
Rousseau said numbers can be adjusted when actuals arrive, adding his belief that this year’s budget is a “crucial” one for the community. Pouget pointed out she suggested the January timeline to look at the departmental submissions but council can proceed later with actuals once they look at what cuts administration is considering.