At 3:30 I will be following the first round of public input of the @CityofPG budget talks - police, fire and aquatics top of agenda
Budget talks about to get underway. First on the agenda, police services. Superintendednt Warren Brown has asked for more police resources, specifically staff in the past. Expectd to make the case again today.
Today is the first meeting of two dedicated to the proposed 2017 budget. On today`s agenda: police protection, fire protection, emergency measures, aquatics, CN Cnetre, events and Civic Centre, community partnerships, community arenas.
First public speaker is director at seniors' centre - says very few municipalities serve senior population as well as PG, but asks council to keep this growing demographic in mind during budget talks.
Third and final call for public to speak to budget items, no takers. Public input portion now closed for the 3:30 meeting.
That was a very quick public input session. There may be more on February 1 when people have a sense of some of the decisions being made.
Some background: The City has four funds: General, Sewer, Water and District Energy. Each fund has specific operating and capital budgets.
The general fund if the biggest and includes funds for "general government, police and fire protection, bylaw enforcement, real estate services, corporate and fiscal services, fleet services, city management, service agreements and grants, transportation, transit and snow control, cemetery and parks, development planning and permits, as well as recreation programs, services and facilities. Also included are off-street parking and solid waste services which are operated to achieve self-financing positions within the general fund. Capital projects related to these operational areas are funded from reserves, grants and debt."
Proposed increase to general taxation is 2.7 per cent for 2017. City staff says this is consistent with past years. 2016 was actually an increase of 3.21 per cent, 2015 was 2.5 per cent.
Only 3-4 public in gallery the rest seem to presenters and officials. Small turnout for first round of budget talks today.
Staff reviewing how various public consultation formed the peoposed budget now. Highlighting affordable housing, improving connectivity between trail networks, active transportation including bike lanes and side walks, better transit and better integration of transit and walking/active transportation infrastructure.
When citizens made their own theoretical budget last year roadways and streetlights were identified as very important, as were sport and recreation and sewer and water.
Public also said library should have less funding.
Interesting - library was among the items citizen budget identified as wanting less funding.
Capital side of budget, including for library will take place on Wednesday.
Technical difficulties happening here with coun. Garth Frizzell breaking up over the phone.
City manager Kathleen Soltis says neither the citizen budget, nor the Talktober feedback sessions are 'statistically valid', so she recommends council put whatever value they wish on them in making their decisions.
"If everyone came to work and showed up we'd be at about 140 police officers," says Brown.
Brown "our community continues to be over-represented with a high crime rate... but we can only do and deliver with the resources we have."
"We have to ensure that we work tightly with our stakeholders," could include health, social services, schools, other areas says Brown.
Brown says general duty staff hours reallocated to downtown duty, other specific police programs which he says have been good programs. Challenges have included retention, entire senior mgmt team lost to attrition, says Brown.
Brown says he lost his entire senior management team due to them all getting promoted. Hasn't been able to have full staff on in 2016. Asking again for an increase to total RCMP members in Prince George.
Councillor Skakun - asks if RCMP can break budget down between what is municipal responsibility and what is covered under provincial contract. Brown says contract between local RCMP and PG include provincial responsibilities.
Skakun says additional downloads of responsibility from the province is costing city "boots on the ground."
Coun. Skakun wants to know if Brown is able to break down police work as provincial duties versus priorities set by the city. Says it seems duties are being downloaded onto police by province at expense of city needs.
"We've made it clear to our members unless there's [extreme] circulstances they're just not going to be released," says Brown of retention issue. RCMP assigned here spend minimum of five years on staff in Prince George.
Councillor Everitt asks if there are any incentives, such as faster promotions "moving up quicker" for attracting potential detachment members to Prince George.
Brown says they've aggressivley been recruiting young members from other similar sized markets but reatining them has been difficult.
Mayor Lyn Hall asks if allocations on this budget would be applied in time to attract/recruit new members by the fall - Brown says RCMP plans to do everything they can to make that happen.
Up next is fire protection services. One big part: there is a need for a new fire hall at a cost of $15 million.
That discussion, though, is coming up February 1 when they talk CAPITAL.
We're basically flying through a bunch of operating budget items here today. The big discussions are more likely to come February 1 when capital discussions happen- that's when council will decide whether or not to spend money on replacing and repairing a number of civic buildings.
Mayor Lyn Hall speaking now about the importance of attracting events to the city. Says it is important to recognize them as economic drivers.
On item D8, community arenas, Coun. Skakun looking at the budget, which includes CN Centre and Kin Centres and wonders how we can change things so taxpayers aren't subsidizing them anymore.
Sorry for the brief silnce, followers; we popped out to interview Superintendent Brown. Listen for that on Daybreak North tomorrow morning.
City staff tell Skakun and rest of council that it comes down to a balancing act between making the arenas affordable for the public and subsidizing them through taxpayer dollars.