Today was day one of budget discussions, where council reviews the city's capital and operational budgets for the next three years. It's a big job, this year we have five full days dedicated to going over the plans and recommendations that administration has developed in their business plans. All the meetings are at the Sandman hotel down town, and the public is welcome to come and observe - although, I don't ever remember anyone coming who wasn't media or lobbying council for something specific.
BUT, you are welcome - we have chairs set up for you!
As I'm writing this It's getting a little late (I need to get to bed soon so I can be fresh for day two) so I'm just going to cover some of the highlights:
• Budget is broken into two parts, Capital (Buildings, Roads, Bridges and Vehicles we by for example) and Operational (Staff Salaries, Programs, and Vehicles we'd lease). Today was the first look at capital with operational to come next week.
• The years covered are 2008 - 2010 and over those three years the projected capital spending is $175 Million dollars!
• Funding for most of this comes from Taxes, Debt, Grants and different Reserves (pots of money, almost like a savings account, that are set aside for specific things).
• Some items are in the plan but are Unfunded - basically they are on the "to do list" but unless someone speaks up for them there isn't any money to do them and in my experience they never end up happening.
We go through the projects with a short description from the director of that service area. If a council member would like to change the status of a project, to fund it, remove it or change when it happens, we "red flag" it and come back to discuss and debate them later. The idea is that we can go through the whole list getting the ones that no one has a problem with out of the way first. Those that need a second look, positive or negative, are discussed after.
Below are some of the items I flagged today. With all of these I am hoping we can do them sooner, or save them from that unfunded/never gonna happen category:
• New buses to expand the Transit Fleet, improved bus stops and shelters and a transfer terminal.
• Twinning 116th Ave from Lakeland Drive to 92nd Street (north of Crystal Park School to the entrance of Crystal Lake Estates)
• Walking paths, (west side of 102 Street from 117 Ave to 120 Ave and 108 Street from 116th Ave to Royal Oaks
• Coca-Cola Centre upgrade, to add a viewing area in the 3rd level. (This is a big unused space looking on to both ice surfaces that could be earning money from rentals)
• Fixing the Leisure Centre Tennis Courts
• New Park space for the Morgan Meadows area
So tomorrow we'll go through these and all the other flagged items (there are lots) and we'll debate what should make the final cut.