Prince Albert city council has voted to freeze spending for the rest of the year as local representatives prepare to head into another round of budget deliberations.
Citing a tough financial situation and a loss in revenues on several budget line items, Mayor Greg Dionne introduced the motion at Monday's regular council meeting. Any purchases over and above normal day-to-day costs will now have to be approved by city manager Jim Toye.
“What I want to do is take the precautions now and put in the necessary protections to make sure that we don’t have a deficit,” Dionne told paNOW following the meeting. “It’s prudent that we audit every line … All private businesses do it and it’s about time the government started looking at that too.”
While the spending has already been planned for as part of the city's current budgeting, Dionne said it's time for the city departments to start scaling back, rather than spend unused funds just to use them up. With only a couple months left in 2018, Dionne said anything not purchased already should be reviewed to decide if it's really necessary.
Past practice has often meant that money budgeted but not spent by the end of the year is used on last-minute purchases. That practice has led to some shocking buys, Dionne said at council, such as $7,000 for a heated mannequin, which was purchased for the fire department for use during training. The mannequin is the same height and weight of an average man and mimics body temperature.
Ward 2 Coun. Terra Lennox-Zepp questioned the idea of freezing spending, saying unused funds should still be fair game since they’ve already been approved in the budget.
Dionne said it’s no secret the city is short on cash and pointed to extra costs over the past year, including lost revenue from the city’s impound lot and parking at the city’s airport and the addition of PST on construction costs, which have impacted the city’s bottom line. The PST on paving at the Art Hauser Centre parking lot alone was $51,000, he added.
Residents to see tax increase
As councillors prepare to head into 2019 budget deliberations, Dionne said residents can expect to see a tax increase over the two per cent previously projected. The city is also expecting to have to pay another $334,000 in funds to its employee pension plan in 2019, he added.
“We’re going to try to keep it as low as we can and we believe the following year we can get it back to that,” Dionne said.
The city will begin deliberations for the 2019 budget later this month.
On Twitter: @CharleneTebbutt
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