What’s coming up at #StCath Council on June 22nd

A fairly routine Council meeting coming up on the 22nd of June. In Regular Committee, we’ve got a presentation of the Fire Marshal’s annual Public Fire Safety Award to Angela Greer, as well as presentations from Liz Palmieri at the Niagara Community Foundation, as well as the new Procedural Bylaw. There are also motions regarding the Niagara District Airport, as well as the Greek Festival. Agenda is here.

In General Committee, there are a number of different items to deal with (agenda here):

  • A report on the new Procedural Bylaw (see the report here). Of particular note – Council meeting will be starting earlier, at 6pm instead of 6:30pm;
  • The appointment of councillors to the Standing Budget committee (see the report here);
  • Parking prohibition reports for Birchwood Circle, Jasmin Crescent, Victor Boulevard, Hilldale Circle;
  • Turn prohibition reports for Hartzel Road/Lincoln Avenue/Keswick Street Turn;
  • An all-way stop request for Beech Street at Henry Street;
  • A proposal to declare surplus land near Harcove Street;
  • Early capital budget approval for a Niagara District Airport Capital Project;
  • The purchase of a Steinway Model D Concert Grand Piano for the FOPAC, using funds donated specifically for this purpose – I will admit, I did not realize a concert piano of this sort would cost north of $200K (report here);
  • A report regarding the DSBN Accommodation Review Policy (to which I will be declaring a conflict of interest);
  • A report regarding the CIP as it relates to 136 James St and 51 Lake St (whose report has not yet been published);
  • And the usual council correspondence.

As long as this list is, it does not appear that Council will be a late night on 22nd.

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New Standing #STCbudget committee going forward – on tap at #StCath Council

One of the things up for debate on Monday night at St. Catharines Council is the establishment of a new Standing committee for the City’s budget process (report here).

In the past (this year included) Council has used an Ad-Hoc budget committee process; the committee was formed each year in December by Council, voting for 5 Councillors to join the Mayor in going through the budget process during January, February and March. These Councillors would generally deal with the Rates and Fees by the end of the Council schedule in December, and then get into the next year’s budget numbers by the end of January. The Actual number for the previous year’s budget would be given to the committee towards the end of the process (end of February, typically), and a recommendation would be sent to Council at the beginning of March, to be debated, amended and passed somewhere between mid- and late March. There are a number of issues I have had with this process over the 4 and a half years I’ve been on Council.

For starters – the City is a 106+ million dollar Corporation; there should be a committee of Council working on next year’s budget year round. One of the problems the City currently has is that, when the ad-hoc budget committee begins working, a portion of the year they are budgeting for has already passed. By the time the budget is sent to Council, in many cases almost 25% of the year is over; even if Council wants to make alterations, they will not have the impact many believe they would, because money has already been spent.

Another issue arises with respect to the Actual figures. When they’re received by the Ad-Hoc budget committee, most of the decisions have already been made. In the event of surprises (like we had this year) there is a very little time left to make changes to the budget without causing a ripple effect of problems across the corporation.

Additional to these, there is the learning curve involved in re-creating a budget committee every year. In many cases, the committee has new members, and they need to receive a crash-course in budget committee working to get up to speed and make a contribution. By establishing a year round committee, if and when new members are added to the committee they would have time to get up to speed on what is happening around the table.

Finally – and most significantly – a Standing committee eliminates the ‘once a year’ mentality that exists with an Ad-Hoc budget committee. Truthfully, every night is budget night; but perhaps in part due to the lack of a Standing committee, many on Council forget to consider the long-term budgetary impacts of their decisions. This year’s CIP, and the comparatively underfunded pervious years of the program, are a perfect example of this. In an effort to artificially lower the tax bill, short-sighted decisions to cut the dollars directed towards the CIP reserve required the last few year’s overcompensation. Had the CIP reserve not been cut in year’s past, the reserve would be fully funded to meet the obligation of the previous program, and there would be dollars available for this year’s program.

As it stands now, Council will need to continue to ramp up the CIP contributions to over 1.15 million dollars int eh next few years, just to meet previous obligations, without any new funding for the CIP. All of this could have been avoided if a Standing budget committee existed at the time to examine and remind Council of the consequences of those short-sighted decisions.

It’s my hope, and the hope of the rest of the committee who helped draft the report and recommendation, that this new committee will be bale to rectify this issues, and provide the City with a proper long-term perspective. Council has lacked that long-term perspective in the past, and our infrastructure and programming have suffered because of it. If we’re serious about building a City our kids will be able to choose to live in going forward, this is a good initial step.

What’s on tap at #StCath Council on 150608

A busy night (they all seem to be, lately) at St. Catharines City Council scheduled for next Monday night, June 8th. A copy of the General Agenda and the Regular Agenda are posted on the city website, both subject to change between now and the 8th. A few of the highlights:

Regular Council:

  • A townhouse development on Parnell Rd;
  • Presentations from the Kristen French Child Advocacy Centre Niagara (regarding Community Partnerships) and the Niagara Sustainability Initiative )regarding the City’s Carbon Footprint);
  • Motions regarding establishing a Port Dalhousie Supper Market, City Council’s meeting schedule and Inter-municipal Transit.

General Committee:

  • Grafitti removal;
  • First Ontario Performing Arts Centre rates and fees – this report is the result of a referral to staff I asked for after presentations at the Public Meeting a few weeks ago, and can be viewed by itself here;
  • Follow-up report on the proposed condominium development on Vansickle N – this will be the subject of another blog post this week, and the follow up report can be viewed by itself here;
  • the monthly cheque register;
  • a report on accessible parking spots and the zoning bylaw;
  • a revised site plan approval process;
  • Queenston St. reconstruction project;
  • sidewalk and curb repairs at 13 and 15 Moote St;
  • an update on the design and budget for the Fallen Worker Memorial;
  • the report to establish a new, Standing Budget Committee that would meet year-round – I’ll be putting another blog post up later this week on this topic as well – report is by itself here;
  • a report on a potential grant to the Kiwanis Club for Father Fest;
  • and the usual correspondence list for Council.

I’ve noted the reports of particular interest to me at this meeting, and as I mentioned I will have a few posts out this week about those issues separately.  As always, if you have any comments for me, email is the quickest way to get a hold of me at msiscoe@stcatharines.ca, although Twitter works as well (@MatSiscoe).