Wednesday, May 1, 2013

City Council Timeline Monday, April 29, 2013

Another full day for Prince Rupert City Council, with close to two hours of review and discussion the majority of it Budget related with a few hard decisions made and offered up for public comment next week.

The main thrust of the Monday session, a decision to remove over 400,000 dollars from the Operations Budget a move that will require layoffs of a portion of the civic work force, a decision which clearly split Council down the middle, with the Mayor (participating by telephone) required to cast the deciding vote on that issue.

A bit of housekeeping followed the main discussion and the advisory that we all gather again next week in a Public forum for comments from the public on the nature of the City Budget which must be in place by mid May.

The timeline of all of the council the proceedings can be found in red below, tied in with the City Council video and audio feeds archived below.

Further information such as minutes and permanent placement in the  audio and video archives can be found as they are posted to the city Website.

Minutes from April 29, 2013 (when posted)

In Attendance April 29, 2013

Mayor Jack Mussallem-- Present (participated by telephone)
Councillor Anna Ashley-- Present (sitting as Chair)
Councillor Judy Carlick-Pearson-- Present
Councillor Gina Garon-- Present 
Councillor Nelson Kinney-- Present 
Councillor Jennifer Rice-- Present
Councillor Joy Thorkelson-- Present

Video Archive for April 29, 2013 
Audio Archive for April 29, 2013 

The first task of business for Council on the 22nd was the usual adoption of the agenda for Monday night, with Mr. Rodin adding one addition to the agenda regarding the upcoming Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency Assessment process on LNG development. (0:00-2:00)

Presentations to Council

Public Comment on the City Financial Plan

(2:00--22:00) The public segment of the council night began with one citizen, a regular contributor to the public forums, asking a pair of questions. The first on CityWest with an inquiry as to whether CityWest was providing any contribution to this years budget. The public participant then offered up his thoughts on the nature of the CityWest dividend and how it was once treated along the lines of a loan repayment.

Mr. Rodin was asked to outline the nature of CityWest and the nature of the state of the company at this moment, taking exception to the characterization by the citizen of the current status of the communication company in relation to its relationship with the City.  Mr. Rodin then expanded on the theme of dividends from the company and how it is accounted for in the accounting from the City. He reinforced the belief that the City is onside with the Community Charter and assured that the City was onside with the rights of a sole shareholder of the company and any governance model that could be checked in regard to CityWest.

Another inquiry from the same participant inquired as to the nature of information delivery from CityWest to the public and the variety of components that make up the company, he followed that question up with a suggestion that the City should re-evaluate the relationship between the City and CityWest.

Mr. Rodin outlined the reasoning behind why CityWest is no longer releasing financial data to the public, which revolved over the nature of competition with other communication companies.

That reply gained another suggestion from the citizen that shareholders as owners should be allowed to see the information.

That question prompted the Mayor to weigh in on the topic by way of telephone, advising that he took offence to the nature of the questioning, advising that there is nothing that the  City is doing that is underhanded and suggesting to the Chair (Ms. Ashley) that if the participant could not craft a proper question then he should no longer be allowed  the microphone.

Councillor Ashley considered that advice from the Mayor and suggested to the citizen that he be cautious about how he frames his questions.

The citizen participant then turned his attention to the current status of the payments in lieu of taxation,.

Councillor Ashley then turned to Mr. Rodin to review that current situation and how it impacts on the City at the moment. He retraced much of the same material that he has offered up in past council sessions over the last few months.

A second citizen then stepped up to the microphone and offered some thoughts on the topic of CityWest, suggesting that the communications company is anything but transparent, questioning some of the financial aspects of the company in relation to the delivery of their recent power point presentation at Council. She then offered her support to the previous citizen who had asked questions and took issue to the nature of respect from Council towards citizens that ask questions of them, in particular suggesting that he had been treated with dis-respect at this session.

She then returned to the theme of CityWest and inquired as to whether there was any City representation on the CityWest Board. Mr. Rodin then advised that at the moment there is no current City representative on the Board of Directors of the company. He anticipates that once the city has returned to full staffing then that participation will resume.

To wrap up her presentation, the citizen called to the council's attention the nature of the current advertisement for senior staff and how the City should be seeking out a candidate that could best help the city out of the morass that it finds itself in.

No other citizens took to the microphones for the public comment session, so Council moved on to other business.

By Laws For Consideration

(22:00--1 hour forty minutes2013 five year financial plan 331-2013-- A recommendation that Council introduce and give first, second and third reading to the Bylaw.  Mr. Rodin was asked if there were any changes to the nature of the Bylaw from last weeks discussions. He said for the most part no changes were made, he did point Council to his report on the topic and outlined some of the parameters of the discussion.

He outlined the challenge ahead for Council in the next year, with some very hard decisions required of Council moving forward. He also advised that there would be a significant decrease in revenues owing to market value changes in Port capped property, in particular McMillan Fish and a Ridley Island Pellet plant which recently closed.  A situation that leaves the City with $171,000 less in tax revenue to work with.

Mr. Rodin then read into the record a message from the Mayor outlining the current challenges facing the City at this time. It touched on such themes as the various groups that depend on grants from the city, reviewed the recent closures of some industries and the developments from CityWest and the dividend situation, suggesting that there may not be dividends provided for a few years into the future, but holding to the theme that there may be better days ahead for the company. The letter then wraps up with a recognition of those city workers and the work that they perform for the City. Highlighting the City Council's dedication towards delivering services, while trying to hold down tax increases and only looking at them when necessary.

Councillor Ashley then asked for the Mayor to expand if he wished, though he had no comments to make.

Councillor Ashley then turned the session over to Council for further discussion.

Councillor Garon asked a question of staff, wondering if the City had information on taxation increases in the Industrial park area. Mr. Rodin offered up a bit of a guess, suggesting that the Industrial Park taxation might be around $99 dollars, at around a $500,000 valuation.

Councillor Garon followed up with a second question on Industrial taxation, viewed in the window of recent industrial closures in the region. Mr. Rodin provided the overview, more or less a tutorial of how the City adjusts the tax roll on these issues.

Councillor Garon then outlined that over the last five years Council has introduced some 15.23 per cent in tax increases, expressing her empathy to those taxpayers that are weary of those increased, something she suggests was worth council's consideration.

Councillor Thorkelson then offered up some observations regarding the Budget deliberations. Starting her presentation with wondering a thought as to what she expects from herself and what people in the community expect from their councillors. From that theme she took Council to the 2012 budget and the nature of the balancing of the books  that Council is required to perform each year. Outlining the work that was required to run the city from those decisions of last year. Turning to the 2013 budget she outlined the challenges faced by Council with current Budget discussions.

She appeared to take offence to the thought by some that the city's finances are a mess, suggesting that considering the difficulties that the City is facing they have done what they could to handle the situation.  She reminded council members as to the lack of revenue from Watson Island and how far back that scenario has gone, Mr. Rodin offered up that caution needed to be reviewed on that theme in regard to tax issues there. Councillor Thorkelson expressed her frustration over the Watson Island Issue as well as the CityWest announcement.

She again outlined her interest with the Port and revenue generated to the city from the current payments in lieu system in place. Again returning to the theme of her suggestion that the Port may see fit to make up the difference with some of the community groups that the city currently provides money for.

She outlined the ability of the City to keep its services intact in the current situation, which she described as fine budgeting. Suggesting that the City has tried its best to keep tax levels down and again returning to her theme that the City's finances are not in a mess. Suggesting that it's the current system that the City has to use in its generation of revenues, that is providing for the city's problems

She reinforced her thoughts on the Port contributing to some of the expenses the city faces and said she wouldn't mind looking to CityWest to see if they could find some cash to provide to the city at this time.

Councillor Ashley then offered up her thoughts on the topic of the Budget considerations, calling to the un-anticipated shortfall of revenues from recent announcements. Her main concern was that $850,000 dollars is from one time funding and not sustainable.  Outlining the nature of where that money is going to come from. Added on to that the realization that next year wasn't going to be much better for the city's fiscal planning.

Expressing concern as to where the City will be at next years Budget discussion and how the City needs to address those issues in a fiscally prudent nature, suggesting that there may be the need for cuts. She outlined the nature of money recovered by the city from any potential cuts that they could make at this time.

Councillor Garon then introduced a motion in agreement with Councillor Ashley's overview of the situation, the motion being for a 3 percent reduction across the board.

Once they reconnected with the Mayor, he then offered up his thoughts on the topic, recommending a number of steps that could be considered.

Councillor Thorkelson then weighed in that she was at a loss as to the nature of Councillor Ashley's suggestions and Councillor Garon's motion. Wondering why they were considering those suggestions at this time.

Councillor Ashley then outlined her reasoning for the introduction of cuts at this time.

Councillor Thorkelson then inquired as to what Council would be looking in the nature of the proposed cuts. Asking what the City would be looking to reduce from this process.

Councillor Ashley suggested that she was looking to keep some kind of operating surplus intact by way of these cuts, with an eye towards next years financial considerations and having a more sustainable budget for next year.

Councillor Thorkelson suggested that the Budget would be sustainable next year if CityWest provides a dividend next year and if the Port was to pay what the Port should. Stating that she was gambling that those things will occur, while she suggested that Councillor Ashley was gambling that they won't occur.

Councillor Thorkelson then asked if the city had a chart as that shows what the reserves are and what Council would be depleting them by, Mr. Rodin corrected her on the terminology, advising that they would be depleting the operating surplus, not reserves. Outlining the various options as to the nature of risk involved in the consideration of any reductions to it.

Mr. Rodin continue his tutorial for Council as to what kind of things they may want to factor into their discussion as to unexpected costs that could rise up over the next year and the need to have finances on hand for those items.

Councillor Thorkelson upon review of all of Mr. Rodin's information again spoke out against any across the board cuts, suggesting that Council needs to review their past budgets for an indication that they have the situation under control.

Councillor Garon expressed her thoughts on what she sees as the bottom line, suggesting that she is not budgeting on "ifs" so Council should budget on the current reality and not looking to the possibilities of  revenues of the future. She also suggested that Council needs to look at how they do things and if there is not a better way of doing them in the future.

Mr. Rodin outlined the number of potential layoffs dependent on the across the board cuts, most of which would come out of the City's public works department. As the Fire and Police levels can't be changed, Public Works is about the only place where any potential cuts could come from.

He then made a suggestion going forward, that Council should call on the new senior Administrators (City Manager, Chief Financial Officer), upon their hiring to conduct a frank discussion as to what items and services are and are not important to the City. He pointed to possible scenarios, which include a review of services at the Civic Centre, the Pool and in the Parks.

He recommended that council give the budget its three readings and then have the new senior management team go back and review it and make their recommendations to Council in the fall.

Councillor Rice asked for clarification as to what they were considering, included in her question the anticipated 2 per cent tax increase and a 3 per cent cut to civic departments across the board.

Councillor Ashley explained again her concerns over the sustainability of the financial plan without her recommendations for across the board cuts. She as well expressed her hope that the Port might offer up some additional money to help the city out of its current troubles.

Mayor Mussallem then provided some input, suggesting that before Council considered a 3 per cent cut across the board, that council consider further cuts to the autonomous and semi autonomous groups that the city provides funding towards as well he recommended a look a property tax exemptions.

Councillor Ashley then brought Council back to he motion currently on the floor.

After some clarification on the numbers for Councillor Thorkelson and further discussion on the topic of the planned cuts, Council was asked to cast their vote on the motion.

Council's vote on the issue resulted in a split with Councillors Ashley, Kinney and Garon voting in favour, Councillor's Thorkelson, Rice and Carlick-Pearson voting against, the Mayor's vote by way of telephone was reluctantly in favour.

With that vote, the motion for a three percent cut across the Board was passed. The three percent cuts would take effect immediately with lay off notices to be issued with the cuts approved.

(1 hour, forty minutes to two hours thirteen minutes  ) Further Discussion on Budget options

Council then turned its attention to the next aspect of the Budget discussions, regarding tax increases, short term tactics and reduction of the paving budget.

Councillor Thorkelson then asked for further guidance on the topic, asking what document Councillor Ashley was working from. And wondering what further action Council was considering now. Councillor Ashley outlined her thoughts as to where the across the Board cuts would be directed and what other measures the City should take on regarding its Budget concerns.

Mr. Rodin then was asked for his thoughts on the direction for Council's considerations.

Councillor Ashley then asked for council to make their suggestions as to how the process should move forward, what options they wished to consider or change from previous sessions.

Councillor Garon suggested that $596,000 of the General Operating Fund appropriated surplus, be used to fund the Current years Operating Costs. Mr. Rodin asked for clarification on that option, wondering if that would mean no tax increase this year.

Councillor Garon confirmed that was her intent.

Mr. Rodin's input was sought on that theme and he recommended that Council consider the required maintenance issues that need to be addressed and that the proposed tax increases would not be overly onerous on residents. He also recommended that Council hold a forum in the future on what residents may wish to have as services and amenities provided by the City.

The Mayor again offered his counsel to the gathering suggesting that Council hold a forum to explain to the public the process ahead before the deadline of mid May.

The Mayor then recommended that the motion be tabled until after that public forum.

That motion was voted on and accepted

Councillor Thorkelson then suggested that it's a good thing to consider the issues further after that forum, but that if Council had known of its financial situation earlier then perhaps it was a forum that could have taken place earlier.

She then suggested that Council review past budgets and how they performed, giving thought to those performances in the scope of the discussions of this session. She cautioned against any drastic cuts at this time, offering her remembrances on past reviews during the Victor Kumar years, where Councillors provided their thoughts on services and cuts. Though she did remind Council that no real consensus ever was reached during those sessions.

She did however go along with the consensus that they should hold a similar forum in the future, to reassess where they want to go as far as some of the issues they were discussing tonight.

She has fears that a last minute forum at this time, as suggested by the Mayor, could result in a wide range of citizens with lengthy lists of  issues for council to consider in a very short time frame.

What she would like to see is that Council receive suggestions from staff on where to go for this year and provide those suggestions for the public forum and instead plan for future forums of public consultation to provide for feedback from the public, regarding any direction that they might wish to see the city follow.

The Mayor then recommended that a motion be put forward asking for staff to provide for financial information for the public forum, outlining the areas of consideration for council at that time.

The motion was passed.

Mr. Grodecki urged council to pick a date for the public session, after discussion with Mr. Rodin, the date of May 8th was suggested for the public forum.

He outlined the tight nature of the timetable ahead to move the Budget forward. With the prospect of a public forum and the required other Council sessions to move the Budget process to conclusion.

Council will wait for Staff to advise as to the proper location for the public forum, which could possibly be either the Civic Centre or the Lester Centre.

Councillor Thorkelson recommended that the Public Forum take place on the 8th, with follow up Council Sessions on the 9th and possibly the 10th. With a May 13th session for adoption.

The motion then was read and adopted by Council.

Councillor Thorkelson then recommended that staff be put on notice that Council would like to have discussions in scheduled for the fall, to investigate further options for the City.

Councillor Ashley then moved on to other City items.

(2 hours thirteen minutes to 2 hours twenty one minutes )
Notice from the CEAA of a Working Group on Environmental Assessment on LNG discussions-- Mr. Rodin outlined the nature of an upcoming workshop from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency on the topic of LNG Terminal development, advising that they would only require one participant from the City in their working group. With the CEAA offering up to appear with Council to provide a general overview on their process.

Councillor Carlick-Pearson suggested that she was interested in attending the session. Councillor Garon  then recommended that Councillor Carlick-Pearson attend on behalf of the city. Councillor Thorkelson,  seemed inclined to attend as well, suggesting that their stipulations were quite rude, and advised the Mayor and Council that she would be attending one way or another, even if she was required to attend as a member of her union.

Staff was further advised to invite the CEAA to Council's meeting of the thirteenth of May, where Council would have opportunity to ask questions and make their thoughts known.

Reports, Questions and Inquiries for Council

With no concerns or questions to be offered, the Council meeting came to a close.

You can access the City Council Review page for April 29th here, where a number of items regarding the council session, including media coverage of it can be found.

As always, consult with the official minutes from the City, when posted to the website for further review.

No comments:

Post a Comment