Councillor- Ward 4 University

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Councillor- City of Brandon
Ward 4 – University.

City facing tough budget decisions- Brandon Sun

Mayor Rick Chrest, flanked by general manager of corporate services Dean Hammond, speaks at a public budget forum at City Hall on Wednesday night. (Michael Lee/The Brandon Sun)

FROM THE FILES OF THE BRANDON SUN

The loss of a commercial waste-collection contract had a “significant” impact on the current revenue shortfall being experienced in the City of Brandon’s sanitation department, city general manager of corporate services Dean Hammond said.

During the city’s public budget forum at Brandon City Hall Wednesday night, Brandon Chamber of Commerce vice-president Cathy Snelgrove noted that the city faces a challenge in the loss of a large commercial contract, which has forced administration to look at adjustments in its budget.

The city is looking at a $1.2-million reduction in its sanitation department, which includes recycling, fees that are charged for waste collection and a drop in residential volumes.

Hammond did not want to say how much of that was the result of the commercial contract, which he said chose to move a portion of its business to Souris.

“But it was significant and it definitely was a hurt,” he said, adding the collection of factors created a “perfect storm” of everything bad that could happen.

“So now we have this revenue shortfall that we have to make up.”

The City of Brandon hosts a public forum on the 2019 budget at City Hall on Wednesday night. (Michael Lee/The Brandon Sun)
The City of Brandon hosts a public forum on the 2019 budget at City Hall on Wednesday night. (Michael Lee/The Brandon Sun)

Hammond said going forward, a project team will be in place to brainstorm different ways of generating revenues and to help the landfill last another 30 years or more.

Mayor Rick Chrest said the city needs to review a variety of things in sanitation to ensure that it remains competitive.

“We’ve got a customer that’s decided to go elsewhere, and we need to go and work with them and find out why and work on getting them back,” he said.

The city will be debating its proposed $84.3-million budget for 2019, including a suggested tax rate increase of 3.91 per cent. Brandon will also see nearly $700,000 less in government funding, mostly from the provincial government.

Chrest has said previously that he believes the increase is too high and would prefer to keep it at or below the rate of inflation.

While other members of council have agreed with Chrest on the tax rate increase, one person at Wednesday night’s public forum called the increase “perfectly acceptable,” adding that if the city stuck to the rate of inflation, it will “lose over time.”

Coun. John LoRegio (Meadows-Waverly) told The Sun that salaries make up most of the budget — 53 per cent — and that the city will have tough decisions to make going forward.

“If you want to start saving money, you cut services. We might have to cut salaries,” he said.

Rookie Coun. Shaun Cameron (University) said it is definitely a challenging climate for council, but it is incumbent on them to maintain services and make sure residents receive value for their tax dollars.

“At the end of the day, as a council as a whole, I think there’s a feeling that — I wouldn’t want to speak directly for them — but a feeling (we) would want a more palatable number for our community,” he said.

Coun. Bruce Luebke (South Centre), who is also a new councillor, said he also didn’t imagine that council would approve a 3.91 per cent increase, but didn’t think it would fall as low as it has in previous years.

“It’s a balancing act because you could cut certain parts of the budget and get the tax increase down a certain ways, but you have to balance that out with the service expectations that your residents have.”

Council will meet for budget deliberations in the council chambers on Jan. 25 and 26.

» mlee@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @mtaylorlee


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