Friday, January 16, 2015

Early actions by Quesnel Council saves $$$

Courtesy of the City of Quesnel:

Mayor Bob Simpson announced some early outcomes of Quesnel City Council’s budget deliberations and strategic planning process. These early actions include: rescinding the remuneration increase for the Mayor and Councillors that was approved by the previous Council prior to the November election, a wage freeze for senior management, and the dissolution of the City’s economic development corporation.

Council is developing its 2015 budget and five‐year financial plan. For 2015, Council must address an approximately $575,000 revenue shortfall in order to maintain programs, services and infrastructure maintenance spending at 2014 levels. This shortfall is primarily a result of the Canfor mill shut down, an industrial tax re‐assessment at West Fraser, wage increases, and inflation.

In addition, despite the fact that Council spends almost $2 million/year for capital improvements, the City has an annual infrastructure deficit of approximately $2 million. That is, in order to maintain the City’s existing roads, sidewalks, buildings and utilities Council must find an additional $2 million/year for capital spending. Failure to address this issue in a timely manner through cost‐saving measures and/or increased taxation will ultimately result in Council borrowing money just to maintain the City’s existing infrastructure.

While still in the early stages of the budget process, the Mayor and Council along with the senior staff of the City of Quesnel have decided to start their cost‐saving measures with their own remuneration. Council passed a motion to rescind the indemnity increase for the Mayor and Councillors that was passed by the previous Council just prior to the November election. In partnership with Council, the City Manager and his Directors have agreed to freeze their salaries at 2014 levels for this fiscal year.

Mayor Simpson stated that he believes Council’s willingness to rescind their indemnity increases is a clear demonstration of Council’s desire to take its leadership role seriously. “This is just a first step for Council as we are taking a hard look at every line item of the City Budget, particularly the expense accounts which are directly within the purview of Council,” said Mayor Simpson.

City Manager Byron Johnson said that both he and his Directors also wanted to publicly demonstrate their understanding of the fiscal constraints facing the City, and show leadership in our cost control efforts.

Mayor Simpson emphasized that Council believes City Staff must be paid fairly and at competitive rates:

“We are fortunate to have professional and dedicated staff managing our City and Council believes they deserve to be compensated fairly and competitively in order to retain and attract such talented people; so, Council is very appreciative of our senior staff’s willingness to freeze their wages this year.”

An early outcome of Council’s strategic planning process was a decision to dissolve the Quesnel Economic Development Corporation in order to bring the City’s economic development function in‐house. According to a UBCM report, the majority of BC municipalities use an in‐house model for economic development and this approach is rated as a highly effective way to do economic development by municipalities that use it.

Council believes that an in‐house economic development function will more directly align with its
strategic plan and budget constraints and, as a consequence, is taking steps to dissolve QCEDC and its Board,” said the Mayor. “We’re grateful for the time, energy and commitment that the volunteer Board of the QCEDC have put into economic development for our region and thank the Board members for their dedication and service to our community.”

These early actions of Council will result in a combined savings of approximately $160,000 in 2015, or about 1.2% of the City’s total budget. These decisions have no impact on staffing or service levels.

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