Post #STCBudget meeting update from Nov. 23rd meeting #StCath

An eventful budget meeting on Monday, with the committee receiving information regarding winter control programs, the asset management plan and the budget night process.

With respect to Winter Control, the committee voted unanimously to maintain the level of service in the downtown with respect to sidewalk snow shovelling; staff had put forward a plan at the request of some Councillors  and residents about shovelling all sidewalks in the downtown, which is not currently done. Store owners and residents are currently expected to meet the same shovelling requirements as businesses and residents in the rest of the City. The committee felt that maintaining this practice was prudent, as the addition of streets not currently dealt with by the City would be upwards of $160,000 (obviously dependent on the severity of the winter we get). As it currently stands, the procedures around snow-clearing currently used would ensure that the new City facilities would be clear of snow already, without any additional cost.

The report regarding the Asset Management Plan was illuminating, specifically for Councillors who were not a part of the creation of the plan two years ago. As I pointed out last year, there are significant infrastructure challenges that the City will need to meet in the upcoming years, and maintaining as low a tax rate as possible is a requirement of this Council as we find a way to deal with these (expensive) issues. 

Indeed, as part of the Strategic Planning process earlier this year, there was near-unanimity from Councillors that the tax rate needs to be brought down to at or below the rate of inflation. The challenges Council will face with respect to roads, water and sewers, recreation facilities and trees are large and they’re not improving. It was reported last night that Council has not increased its contribution to maintaining road infrastructure over the last 5 years, and in fact, as a percentage of sustainable funding levels it has actually decreased its contribution. This can’t be allowed to continue, and the Committee will be tasked with finding savings in non-priority areas at City Hall to make sure the core services of the City are properly maintained.

As an addendum to the infrastructure conversation, staff will be bringing forward a report regarding Infrastructure Levies, which are being imposed in other communities to try and deal with the problems all municipalities are currently facing. For an example of a municipality that is looking  at an infrastructure levy, check out this article regarding Windsor’s current debate on exactly this topic. Windsor is often held up as a model community in terms of wise municipal spending, so it’s interesting to see what solutions they are seeking to their own infrastructure woes.

Finally – the committee is looking at ways to change the actual Budget Night process, to make things more streamlined and avoid the decision-making at 1:30AM problem we encountered last year. My hope is that Councillors will bring amendments to the table earlier in the process so that staff can detail for Council exactly how much their additions or deletions to the budget will cost/save the City. This has been an issue in the past several years, with some Councillors claiming massive savings that simply did not exist from their proposed changes.

As always – if residents have any questions, comments or concerns, feel free to email me at msiscoe@stcatharines.ca, email the budget committee at budget@stcatharines.ca, or tweet using the hashtag #STCbudget to get your opinion across.

And a reminder that the next budget meeting will be Wednesday November 25th in the afternoon, 3:30 at City Hall. The agenda for tomorrow night’s meeting can be found here.

#StCath City Council for November 30th – What’s on tap?

Easy to get out of the habit of doing these, but here goes with a rundown of what’s coming up next Monday night at 6:30 in Council chambers:

During the Regular agenda (located here):

  • We’ve got presentations on three topics, related to an award for the AODA 10th anniversary Champion Awards, an update and overview of Brock University and its future goals, as well as an overview of the proposed changes to the Lake Street Service Centre;
  • There are delegations related to affordable housing from Niagara Regional Housing and two public meetings regarding stopping up and closing unnamed streets and road allowances;
  • There’s a motion coming from the Mayor asking staff to report on the implications of eliminating property tax charges for Niagara Regional Housing properties;

During the General agenda (located here):

  • Reports related to the above public meetings;
  • The filling of two vacancies left by Councillor Elliott’s resignation from both the Economic Sustainability Pillar Committee and the Cultural Funding Task Force;
  • A supplemental report related to the creation of the Fire Master Plan committee;
  • A supplemental report related to the proposed consolidation of the Lake Street Service Centre;
  • Citizen appointments to the Museum and Arts and Culture Advisory Committees;
  • The Corporation’s Quarterly Investment report;
  • St. Catharines Transit’s plan for spending provincial gas tax money;
  • A report regarding the possibility of generating electricity from the kinetic energy in the city’s watermains;
  • The staff report related to Uber and car-sharing services in Niagara;
  • A report relating to future municipal consultation when placing cell towers;
  • And a report on the RFP process for the FOPAC Donor wall.

A number of interesting topics to be discussed, and I’m expecting a very busy and long night. If you have any questions, comments or concerns on any of the above topics, please drop me a line at msiscoe@stcatharines.ca.

Two #STCBudget meetings this week; what are your thoughts, #StCath?

Just a quick note to remind folks of the upcoming budget meetings coming up today, November 23rd in Council chamber at 4:30, and Wednesday November 25th at 3:30pm in the same place. There are a number of important topics being discussed in both of these meetings.

On the 23rd, the agenda includes:

  • Discussions with the Commissioner of Operations regarding the proposed Winter Control reserve budget, sidewalk snow removal for seniors and enhanced removal in the downtown and reports that have come to Council regarding Asset Management;
  • Proposed changes to the Budget night process itself – the proposal is to change to a two night process, where the budget would be presented and any amendments to the budget dealt with on night one, along with public comment on the budget, and the second night given over to debate of amendments and the budget itself, allowing staff time to explain the implications of any proposed amendments;
  • And timeline information related to the work plan of the Standing Budget Committee.

On the 25th, we’re looking at the following:

  • Changes made stemming from the November 3rd meeting on the Schedule of Rates and Fees;
  • And other issues held over from the 3rd.

If residents have questions, comments or concerns related to the budget, feel free to tweet them with #STCbudget, or email the committee at budget@stcatharines.ca. If you have any comments directed at me, I can be reached at msiscoe@stcatharines.ca.