It’s that time of year! Special Budget meetings are a bit different than our regular Council meetings - We’re working on the fly, responding to new information with motions to fund/unfund projects, and giving everyone the opportunity to ask all the questions that we need to make decisions at a faster pace than we normally would. We’re also starting two hours early, at 1pm, for this meeting.
We’ll hear divisional presentations about the 2019 budget from:
Infrastructure & Development Services
Community & Protective Services
Arts & Heritage Foundation (the museum, art gallery, grain elevators, etc.)
Budget Information Requests
We’ll also be given the opportunity to ask questions of Administration about the proposed budget. There are already 29 “Budget Information Requests” from councillors that have been answered and are listed on the public website. Some of the areas that we’re looking for more information include:
Councillors Hansen, Hughes, and I have asked for additional information about the $100,000 request for 2019. As far as I can tell, original funding didn’t come from the city, so we didn’t fund this in previous years. It’s also unclear what participation numbers look like, so I suspect we’ll be asking more questions tomorrow.
Counsellor Hughes and I have both looked into why new power stretchers ($100,000), in line with provincial standards, aren’t in the funded budget - I’ll move to fund this unless another councillor beats me to it. I also have questions about the unfunded software that would improve response times of paramedics in fire services responding to medical calls when ambulances won’t be as quick ($42,000). I’ve also asked about the Wildland Firefighting Vehicle ($188,000 + $12,000 ongoing) that was unfunded last year, but resubmitted under a different name for the 2019 budget.
Counsellor Hughes and I have asked about projects that could reduce energy consumption and otherwise improve out environmental footprint.
Mayor Heron has asked about the cost of prioritizing snow removal on certain roads, including the potential of seasonal parking bans.
Counsellor Hansen had a couple of questions about the significant funding increases requested this year ($203,600 in 2019, up to $250,000 by 2021).
Income Supplement for Residents in Need
As we’ve never funded the Rental Assistance Program or the Crisis Fund, I had some questions about where funding came from, what the intent is going forward, and possible duplication of services. (It’s always been provincial funding, with a bit of help from United Way. Friends of the St. Albert Housing Society also provide a similar service, which we could fund through grants rather than operating it ourselves.) With an ask of $30,000 for this year and $162,000 in subsequent years, this is a big change in how we approach provincially-funded supports.
Over the past year, counsellors have been submitting “postponed motions” that impact the 2019 budget - Counsellor Hughes has submitted a handful already that we’ll either debate or support on consent:
That $25,000 is allocated from the capital reserve to modify current facilities for additional pickleball courts.
That CPS-06, Mayor’s Celebration 10th anniversary, for $10,000 is unfunded. (This is for a “video montage”.)
That CS-03, Council Strategic Planning for $20,000 is unfunded. (We agreed last year that we’d only do this once, so I don’t expect questions.)
That CS-04, St. Albert Advocacy Plan for $10,000 is unfunded. (This is for a “Council workshop to educate/work to develop an annual advocacy plan.”)
That CSS-006, Heat Recovery System for $65,700 is funded from the capital reserve. (This is for a heat recovery system at the Servus Place pool, with an expected annual savings from energy costs of $27,500 and a reduction of emissions of 217 CO2e tonnes.)
I have no new Council-related photos to share, but my resident squirrel is always a good sport in photos:
This is a brief high-level overview of highlights from our meeting agenda, with my personal comments sprinkled in - In no way are my opinions representative of the official direction of council or the City of St. Albert. Please let me know of any typos or errors. As always, I also encourage everyone who is able to tune in the the live-stream of the meeting (3pm here) or attend in-person (3rd floor of St. Albert Place, hang a right getting out of the elevator). You can also register to speak if you have information to present to council. Full agenda packages can be found on the stalbert.ca website.