City staff say they have millions to shave off next year's budget

'Inundated' with requests

A warning from the city’s chief financial officer about a surge in spending requests didn’t stop city councillors Tuesday from making their cases for individual wish list items.

Jim Bauer told Penticton city council he's been “inundated” with $18 million worth of capital spending requests — items like roads, fleets, facilities and IT —  for 2020, dwarfing $7.5 million in capital spending at the city in 2019.

Operating expenses are up more than $4 million and the city's approximately $500,000 grant program has received $1.1 million in requests.

“It’s no small task for senior management to go through all those requests, and look at what is absolutely critical,” he said, adding there are requests for 23 new staff positions he must consider. 

Council later individually debated 20 motions brought forward by councillors for consideration in the budget with full costing later in the year, with proposals ranging from more flowers along roadways to a new municipal prosecutor.

Council supported Coun. Julius Bloomfield’s motion that the city look at hiring a manager of social development to tackle issues like homelessness and seniors issues.

While Bloomfield argued, “it's time to start investing in people,” Couns. Katie Robinson and Jake Kimberley said the city should not take on provincial issues. 

“The more you take on the more they give you,” Kimberley said.

A motion to increase RCMP resources from Robinson also gained council support. While the local detachment has submitted a request for five new officers and three civilians, city manager Donny Van Dyk said they will not be in a position to afford the full, nearly $1 million, request.

Motions supporting the revitalization of the 400 block of Main Street and the study of a food waste compost program in Penticton were also both supported. 

Coun. Judy Sentes withdrew motions calling for the improvement of the sidewalks near the SS Sicamous, continued Penticton Creek restoration and securing housing for doctors because the work had already been completed or started.

Come budget time, city staff will also present council with an increased snow-clearing budget to allow for the clearing of more sidewalks and bus stops. Opportunities to offset the costs associated with hosting Ironman, such increased parking fees, will also be considered after they were supported. Both those ideas came from Coun. Frank Regehr. 

Coun. Robinson’s call for the beautification of city streets through the use of landscaping failed to win support, “the weeds win,” she mused.

Motions calling for the hiring of a municipal prosecutor, improved city branding and an activity park in Gyro Park were all defeated by council.

Financing a lake-to-lake bike route, improvements to the city hall parking lot, the conversion of the temporary bathrooms in Gyro Park to permanent were all supported.

Finally, motions to have staff look into turning signals at lights, the purchase of a sidewalk sweeper, planting more street trees and climate change initiatives were all withdrawn by the submitting councillors. 

The projects supported by council are not necessarily going to be included in the 2020 budget, but will simply be considered with full costing when the draft budget is released next month.

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