A combination of difficult decisions and some inexperience around the table has left City of Moose Jaw officials with yet more work to do as they try to finalize the 2017 municipal budget.
Preliminary budget estimates showed a $2.28 million revenue shortfall, and city councillors and administration spent this past Friday and Saturday (February 10 and 11) crunching the numbers line by line, department by department in an effort to come up with a finished document. They didn't quite get there.
"We think we still have another full day of work to accomplish that," said City Manager Matt Noble of their goal to finalize this year's budget.
Noble says that having three first-time city councillors involved in the process (Crystal Froese, Scott McMann and Chris Warren) made some of the discussions longer than in previous years - but he adds that it's nothing unexpected.
"You don't know what to ask until you actually start getting into the detail," said Noble. "It's not unusual when you have a first-term council that a significant amount of additional information will be required in order for people to be comfortable when making those decisions."
Noble says there are difficult decisions for all councillors to make, regardless of experience, with a number of factors to consider.
"The economic climate (is one)," he said, adding "and of course trying to balance the amount required to invest in the future of the community while at the same time being mindful of the impact you would have on the ratepaying citizens."
Noble did say they have wrapped up discussions surrounding many city departments.
"We've finished up Fire (Dept.), finished up Parks & Rec, Planning & Development," explained Noble. "What we have left is Engineering Services, Transit, Sanitary Sewer...our solid waste utility is looking at a revamp..and, of course, water main funding."
The city needs to come up with about $1.6 million per year for the Cast Iron Water Main Replacement program that begin in 2016. However, that program was initially set to have 30% of the cost covered by residents affected by cast iron work in front of their property. That funding model (Local Improvement Program) was defeated in a referendum as part of the 2016 municipal election.
Noble says they are trying to set a date "around the 23 or 24" of February for budget talks to resume.