Monday, May 13, 2013

City Council Timeline, Thursday, May 9, 2013

Thursday's Special Session of council was all about the Budget and Financial Plan for the year ahead.

The assembled gathering in Council Chambers providing a review, a revelation and in the end, a resolution for now, to the City's Financial situation, though not without a cautionary note at the end as to some concern for next year's Budget planning sessions to come.

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 May 9, 2013 (when posted)

In Attendance May 9, 2013

Mayor Jack Mussallem-- Present
Councillor Anna Ashley-- Present 
Councillor Judy Carlick-Pearson-- Present
Councillor Gina Garon-- Present 
Councillor Nelson Kinney-- Present 
Councillor Jennifer Rice-- Present
Councillor Joy Thorkelson-- Present

Video Archive for May 9, 2013 
Audio Archive for May 9, 2013 


The opening to the Special Session got off to a rather confusing start, as the Mayor and Council discussed and sought counsel on just how to go about reversing the decision last week to put in place a three per cent cut to expenditures to all City departments. The first ten minutes of the session were dedicated to discussion on just what was required to move that issue forward, before the actual business of the night could commence.

Council finally found the right path on that issue, after a gentle nudge from Rob Grodecki, who offered up the proper phrasing to rescind the proposed cutbacks to city departments, setting up the new discussion points for the night.

Councillor Ashley sought more clarification on the nature of the original motion of the three per cent reduction, in the wake of the public session of Wednesday and subsequent closed door discussions with CUPE.

She then proposed a motion to rescind that original motion, framing her motion with the thought that she hadn't "changed her mind" on the nature of her concerns from the original motion, but rather revising the motion based on considerations from the public forum and the session with the CUPE officials.

The motion to rescind the three per cent cutbacks was then passed by Council.

With that confusing bit of housekeeping taken care of, discussion on the latest financial path being considered got under way.

Dan Rodin's review of the Financial Plan process and options for Council

(8:30-28:00) Outgoing CFO Dan Rodin (his final day is in Mid May) outlined much of the background of the last few months on Budgetary concerns. Providing a comprehensive review of his past talking points since October, as well as one more synopsis of the Options available and the impact that they could have on the City's Financial forecasts moving towards next year and beyond.

Among some interesting reminders for Council was the timeline ahead for contract negotiations with the Ferry workers, Civic Workers and Firefighters, the latter a contract which is linked to the Vancouver Firefighters contract, which is currently under negotiation.

He reviewed the financial shortfalls from taxes and CityWest, as well as increases in other costs and expenses that are facing the City.

He outlined his thoughts on the use of the operational surplus at this time for budget purposes, advising that the City faces major challenges for next year and that a year from now Council may have to make some hard decisions.

On the theme of the Operational surplus he didn't think that a large draw down at this time was a major issue, as he didn't think that the City required an operational surplus as high as we currently have it at, the proposed draw down for this budget, would leave about 1 million still in operational reserve.

He then outlined the scenarios should the City face a major unexpected expense, advising that they would most likely have to borrow money for  any such unforeseen incidents.

He reviewed the other major points of the two remaining Options for consideration.

With the expansive review complete, the Mayor then moved business on to the vote and discussion on the proposals for this years Budget and Financial Plan.

Councils Considerations and Comments on the Motion of the Variations Recommended


Councillor Carlick-Pearson was the first to take the Mayor up on his invitation to comment on the proposals in front of Council, explaining her concern over Option three and the prospect of closing amenities.  In particular the prospect of closing the Civic Centre and pool for any length otf time, among her discussion points a reminder that the city had already lost a good portion of its waterfront to Industrial use and that she didn't wish to see the city's residents lose use of their amenities as well.

The Mayor interrupted her asking for a motion, Councillor Carlick-Pearson continued on with her discussion points, and was then followed  by Councillor Thorkelson who also covered a few points of interest. She mentioned the session with City Workers and the importance to the deliberations that it provided for. Councillor Thorkelson then provided for her motion on the night, introducing the motion of revised Budget planning.

Among the points a change to the proposed increase to a tax rate, dropping the proposed increase to 1.5 per cent from the previously recommended 2 per cent. Savings from those closed door sessions with CUPE which will apparently provide for at least 150,000 dollars towards the Budget for this year, while Council chose to take the bulk of it's budgetary requirements for this year from the City's Operating Surplus. Deciding on a sum of 523,000 to be redirected from the Surplus, towards the city's financial requirements for the year ahead.

She also returned to the theme of seeking out assistance from some of the city's larger corporate citizens, suggesting that a donation to the Library for instance, would help to reduce the impact of the financial requirements of the City there.

She further explained some of the background of her proposal, suggesting that the City would work smarter, seek out community sponsorships and seek further savings where available.

With the motion introduced, the individual Council members weighed in with their thoughts, all apparently firmly behind the new financial plan.

Councillor Ashley, then recounted the conversations with the public from Thursday and the recent  session with CUPE and how that impacted on her decision to support the motion, protecting jobs and avoiding the loss of amenities for the City.

She highlighted the need to be financially responsible, looking for savings as they can find them.

Councillor Garon, echoed the thoughts of Councillor Ashley, thanking the public for attending the public forum and thanking CUPE for their contributions.

Councillor Rice, added Ditto.

The Mayor expressed his concerns over the motion, outlining that Council was making a decision based on blind faith and good intentions, hoping that for the sake of all of Council that something can be done and efficiencies found. He was concerned that if they can't get there or only get part way there, then next year could be even more difficult.

He outlined his thoughts on the use of the Operational surplus and the nature of the city's aging infrastructure. Calling to mind the Fulton Street issues when major repairs were required.

He advised that moving forward that he was optimistic and that hopefully there wouldn't be major emergencies ahead. He also expressed a wish to work co-operatively with community partners both within the city structure and those in the community.

Councillor Ashley said she understood what the Mayor was saying, but that she wasn't looking at this as blind faith. Calling to mind the session with the CUPE members, and while she wasn't going to disclose the content of those discussions, she said there were some good ideas that came from it. She said that she believed that they could find even more than the 150,000 savings planned from the CUPE discussions.

Councillor Kinney echoed Councillor Ashley's comments, stating that what was brought to Council by CUPE made perfect sense to him, and that it was nice to have CUPE come forward to help save the city.

The Mayor said hopefully all of it was attainable.

Councillor Thorkelson added her thoughts to the topic, touching on the prospect of a new CAO and what ideas he may have. She then outlined more comments on the nature of the motion she proposed and again reinforced the need to find other savings, working smarter, getting other work done. She said that the message she got from the public forum was that the community wanted to see the City handled smarter.

She then recounted her past time on council and how they've slashed and burned in past years, and that by working smarter as CUPE suggested she felt that they could find those savings they need.

And if they don't find the savings from those CUPE suggestions then they'll have to find them some other way.

She also outlined how in her belief the City hasn't received much in the way of income  since 2003 and that they have been running the city on the same income, with any income increases in recent years based on grants. A process which has impacted on the decisions that the City has made on items, selecting many that are basically tied to the grants and require some City contributions.

She closed her overview of the situation by stating that a 1.5 per cent tax increase was reasonable.

The Mayor then reminded Council that there are costs that they have no control over, such as utilities and such, which will have to be assessed for next year as well.

The mayor then called for the motion, which was passed.

He then thanked CUPE for coming forward for their discussion, suggesting that they don't know if everything is doable, but it's a start, and he thanked them for taking the initiative.

(44:00-48:30) 2013 Five Year Financial Plan By Law 3331,2013

Mr. Rodin outlined some of the details behind moving the process forward. Having council make the required changes to reflect the newly introduced motion.

Mr. Grodecki, then read into the bylaw the changes required.

An implementation of a 1.5 per cent tax increase in the 2013 year, a reduction of a minimum of 150,000 dollars from the Budget with a target of $200,000 if possible and the balance to be taken from the Accumulated Surplus to a figure of 523,000 dollars.

Council gave first, second and third reading to the 2013 Financial Plan Bylaw.

All Councillors voted in favour of the motion.

It will adopted on Monday evening, May 13

(48:30-- 51:00) 2013 Property Tax Bylaw 3332,2013

Mr. Rodin then explained the requirements for the Property Tax Bylaw for 2013.

Council then introduced and gave the Tax Bylaw first, second and third reading.

That motion was passed and will be adopted on Monday evening, May 13.

Reports, Questions and Inquiries for Council

Councillor Thorkelson inquired as to whether Mr. Rodin would be in Council on Monday evening, she was advised that Mr. Rodin will be with the City until the 15th.

Council then voted to cancel the planned special Budget session of of May 11th.

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

You can access the City Council Review page for May 9th 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.

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