Town continues budget deliberations

It was another long night of budget talks during last Tuesday’s Special Meeting of Council.
The three-hour meeting provided more of a question and answer period for councillors, after the departmental budgets were discussed on Jan. 17.
Tuesday’s meeting began with an overview of the general administration budget, which saw a new line addition of meeting expenses.

The director of Finance, John Holland, explained that this allows the town to keep track of all the purchases due to lunches and similar costs.
He also mentioned that they budgeted staff wages for the current staff they have now, allowing for increases where applicable.
The staff removal and interview funding was cut as Holland is assuming the current staff will stay as is for the year.
He also added that the bylaw budget has increased, due to the recent hiring of a bylaw officer.
“But it is based on anticipated greater amount of work, if you will,” said Holland.
One item touched upon both nights was the increase in the spending for phone services for the town.
Coun. Kevin Wallington noted that the budgeted amount nearly doubled from last year, at $57,100.
Hay River’s SAO Terry Molenkamp explained that it is now protocol for many staff members to have a cell phone on them for communication purposes, but the budgeted amount also includes internet fees, which take up a bulk of the alloted amount.
She also said that the Town has been in communication with Bell, and are now under a group plan to help decrease costs.
The utility budget was also discussed, where the water contract was a raised concern. Negotiations revolving around the contract are still ongoing and council members were wary of passing the budget. However, Deputy Mayor Mike Maher said that the budget can still be passed without a finalized contract as it is the rates that council needs to discuss, not the contract itself.
The capital budget was the last item that council touched on during Tuesday’s special meeting, and Coun. Andrew Cassidy asked for an overview of “what’s been checked off and been put forward before we enter 2011.”
Director of Recreation, Ross deBoer, explained that $15,000 had been put towards signage in 2010, including the ‘Welcome to Hay River’ sign, Porritt’s Landing and the Visitor’s Centre. He added that no money has been spent to date on the trail system, but $125,000 is set aside to begin work.
“We have done some work, but haven’t committed any funds to date,” said deBoer.
But despite the lengthy discussions, Mayor Kelly Schofield said another few special meetings will be required before anything can be voted on, but the Town is hoping to have everything passed by the end of the month.