Canmore council found itself under the proverbial gun this week when it became apparent budget cuts were biting a bit too close to home.
A last minute amendment to the 2011 operational budget by Councillor Joanna McCallum saw an additional $10,000 put back into council’s own budget for the mayor’s expenses.
An overall five per cent cut to the entire budget put forward by council in December, on top of reductions already proposed by administration, saw council’s budget for the mayor’s telephone, internet, travel and hosting reduced.
McCallum said by cutting so much, council made the job of the mayor and future mayors harder, which could deter some in the community from running in an election.
“We are cutting people out by not offering them a living wage in this town to do this job,” she said. “I think council did a great job pruning down the budget, but this part makes me nervous.
“I do not want the mayor to have to dip into his own pocket.”
Mayor Ron Casey recognized the motion puts him in an awkward spot, but pointed to the fact he has already, in the past, paid for travel and hosting expenses out of his own pocket.
“There is a personal cost to me,” he said. “All I would like is to be compensated for my costs on behalf of the Town and nothing else. It is fair to have money to do that and not pay for it myself.”
Coun. Gordie Miskow expressed concern $10,000 may not be enough.
“We are only fooling ourselves if we cut (council’s budget) too short,” Miskow said. “I’m concerned at the end of the day we are short-changing council.
“Councillors also make sacrifices and I want to make sure by 2013 our positions are not costing us $2,000 to $3,000 each.”
Coun. John Borrowman supported the move, adding if the figure is not enough it can be changed in next year’s budget.
Coun. Ed Russell proposed postponing the budget again in order for council to schedule a working session.
“There are drastic changes in this budget that are going to make it difficult for future councils,” Russell said. “I am always leery of changing things on the fly and there are other areas to look at further that have not come up.”
Council did not support the motion to postpone and also did not support a further motion by Russell to restore $8,000 cut from the mayor’s salary.
Manager of financial services Sandy Croteau explained that, overall, the 2011 operational budget is 2.3 per cent, or $601,000 more than the 2010 budget.
That results in overall revenues and expenditures of $26.7 million. Of that total, transfers to reserves including $1 million for the shortfall in the utility rate model, the capital budget and affiliate organizations represent $6.7 million.
Overall expenditures of $20 million for the organization decreased over last year by 1.8 per cent, or $378,000, excluding utilities and solid waste services.
Salaries, wages and benefits for the Town were reduced $460,000 as well.
In order to achieve the budget, council approved a municipal tax increase of 2.5 per cent resulting in $16.7 million in taxation.
Croteau said new growth is expected to contribute to the operating budget in 2011 by $274,000 – but she warned that may not continue into the future.
“For our foreseeable operating budgets, that growth will continue to decline and that puts pressures on our existing properties,” she said. “In 2012, growth is expected to be significantly less.”
The message, she said, is that in the future Canmore can expect to see taxes increase to pay for things like the Multiplex and service changes in 2012 for a stand-alone fire department.