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City deficit projections 'fear-mongering': councillor

Posted: 10/10/2013 2:32 PM | Comments: 0

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Projected operating deficits at city hall are being used as "fea- mongering" and rationale for cost-cutting moves, a city councillor charged today.

Coun. Paula Havixbeck said the city ends up every year with a surplus, yet officials and some councillors cite a potential deficit for ongoing financial belt-tightening.

"The question is, is there not a better way to deal with the budget?" Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo) asked during the morning finance committee.

The issue was one of several this morning that prompted an exchange between Havixbeck and chair Russ Wyatt.

Wyatt (Transcona) said regular operating-budget updates are part of the finance department’s responsibilities.

"It’s reporting, not fear-mongering," Wyatt said.

The city was projecting a deficit of $11.2 million at the end of June. That number has now been cut back to $7.7 million by the end of August. Civic officials expect the budget will be balanced by the end of the year.

Havixbeck turned to the controversial KMPG report and its recommendations on savings in the public works department.

KPMG was paid $287,500 for the operational audit – which concluded the department could save $5.5 million by changing its practices, including snow-clearing, maintenance of flowers and greenspace, and scheduling construction work on weekends during the summer to reduce overtime costs.

The city stated in a release last week that KPMG will be hired to implement some of the recommendations.

But Havixbeck said the city spends too much money on private-consultant reports, adding she wondered why the public-works department shouldn’t be tasked to implement the recommendations eventually adopted by council.

"That’s a good question," Wyatt said, but he stopped Havixbeck’s motion to have the department do the work itself.

Following the meeting, Wyatt said the public works department asked for KPMG to implement its own recommendations, adding that staff are preoccupied with the day-to-day business of running the department.

"We don’t want spend all that money or a report only to have it sit on the shelf," Wyatt said.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

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