Council nixes cost reduction for water and sewer

Thursday, January 24, 2013   by: Jamie LyleNorth Bay City Council has a spirited debate regarding reducing the budget during Monday evening's regular council meeting as councillors ping-ponged back and forth over cutting and maintaining the current proposed budget.

Initially, council looked at dismissing a half million dollars out of a 2 million dollar overtime in the water and sewer department, but when that came to the vote, it was narrowly defeated, 6-5.

Next, they looked at perhaps eliminating four positions within the city’s maintenance and infrastructure and again, when it came for the councillors to vote, there was another narrow defeat for the cost of the taxpayers.
Deputy Mayor Sean Lawlor then proposed reducing the overtime budget by a hundred thousand dollars.

Seeing that motion defeated; Councillor Maroosis proposed a 50,000 cut that was once again defeated.

It’s notable that many other city departments recently pushed to control costs did find ways with in their budgets to reduce hires among other things, yet when it came to the scrutinizing of the water and sewer costs, council was unable to consider cutting anything from its operating budget, which is increasing by approximately 3 percent per annum.

Council, it seems, was convinced that department heads and budget crunchers in the city’s departments had heeded the warnings to the economic situation that has been brought to the city.

While some feel that holding the line and not pulling back the reins is not sending a strong enough message, it seems at least half of council feel safest doing nothing and riding out any costs on the beleaguered tax payers in the city.

To be fair, perhaps council, more than most, know and understand what they’re constituents want if that is indeed to maintain the current level of taxation and yet another difficult financial year.

Deputy Mayor Sean Lawler, who initially brought forward many proposals to see cuts to department budgets, was astonished that council felt inaction was the best course to take with regards to costs in the city, even be it small symbolic cuts.

“I was hopeful of the two items, to reduce water and sewer rates, that we would, at minimum, get some support and commitment from council to reduce a half million dollars in overtime in the water and sewer budget, unfortunately, that support wasn’t there,” says Lawlor.

“It’s a little disconcerting,” says Lawlor, “of any of the items, I would have said that overtime is the most logical and realistic to truly reduce our spending and expenses.”

With citizens feeling the overtime expenses, among other issues, consuming too many of the taxpayer’s resources, the majority of councillors felt it better to not invade on the municipal departments and tell them with what or how to do their jobs.

However, many citizens feel that is the first job of council and without control, a rubber stamp has little power but to be at the whim of a non-elected organization running the citizen’s finances.
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