Town staff not hit by budget cuts–yet

The committee of the whole spent two hours behind closed doors Monday night but Mayor Glenn Witherspoon assured no cuts were made to town personnel as councillors looked to find another $1 million in savings from the 1998 budget.
At this stage of the budget process, it was a discussion and an information session for councillors, the mayor said.
“We went to all the departments about the operating and how they see them running for the balance of ’98 and ’99,” he said later Monday night. “But there were no decisions made whatsoever.
“There would never be a decision with respect to personnel without notifying anybody,” he stressed.
George Supinski, shop steward with CUPE Local #65 (Public Works), said yesterday the union had not been approached on the matter. All the town’s contracts had been ratified–except for day care–but they haven’t been signed yet.
But Mayor Witherspoon admitted personnel might be something council has to look at somewhere down the line. And during the open session of the committee of the whole, some councillors asked if the contingency fund could be used for buy-outs, “golden handshakes,” and bridging benefits for those who took early retirement.
The committee of the whole opted to cut $50,000 from its 1998 contingency fund, leaving $150,000.
But after all the cuts made Monday, the town still needs to find about half-a-million dollars in savings before it can put its ’98 budget into bylaw. Part of the problem, Mayor Witherspoon said, was the loss of the $2.2 million unconditional grant from the province.
“When this whole thing was worked out and it was going to be [cost] neutral, the unconditional grant was there,” he noted, adding the town was to get $4.2 million in transitional funding from the province this year.
But the biggest delay, the mayor said, was that the province still hasn’t come up with the exact figures on what the “download” will cost municipalities.
“We’ve been told that the minister of finance has told his people to have the final correct figures to all municipalities by March 31,” Mayor Witherspoon said, adding he was optimistic the town would have those answers before its next budget meeting April 2.
“When we get those final figures, council will have to decide at that time, in concert with their management people and their entire town staff, what’s going to happen,” he said.
Despite the unknowns, councillors managed to hack $298,000 more from the capital and reserve fund contribution in 1998 during Monday night’s meeting.
That included $48,000 from the Administration and Finance capital budget, $42,000 from Community Services, and $88,000 from Operations and Facilities.
On the contributions slated to reserve funds, the committee of the whole agreed to cut another $120,000.
The town also could realize some savings in the $390,000 interest payment it has budgeted on the $4.4-million debenture for the arena, auditorium, and secondary water pollution control plant.
With that money being reinvested, the committee of the whole felt interest earned should go back into that payment. And that could help the town realize another $200,000-$300,000 in savings from its 1998 operating budget.
“We don’t really know what the value will be until we have a better idea on cash flow for the project,” Administration and Finance manager Darryl Allan explained.
But as the town goes into April without a set budget, Mayor Witherspoon admitted it was getting difficult. Without a 1998 levy, the town issued interim tax bills earlier this month based on 50 percent of last year’s levy.
And the town now is several months behind schedule on its budget.
“We used to have it done on Dec. 15,” Mayor Witherspoon said.