CORNER BROOK — Every single financial aspect of the City of Corner Brook will be reviewed for the 2014 budget.
Many of the new council members campaigned on fiscal responsibility and, entering its first budget preparation, council is immediately acting on it.
In preparation for the 2014 budget, in early December, council announced at Monday’s public meeting it is conducting an intensive review of the budget. The public is invited to participate, and a consultation session is scheduled for Nov. 4 from 3:30-6 p.m. at city hall. Written submissions are also being accepted.
Deputy Mayor Bernd Staeben, chair of the corporate services committee, said there will be a line-by-line review of the projected $32.5 million budget to identify opportunities for cost savings.
A former councillor, he said the city’s budget increased from $14.5 million 20 years ago to $18.5 million in 2001, and should have been between $28-$29 million this year. He described it as an exponential growth, sparking the review.
“Our population has gone down,” Staeben said. “We have an aging demographic. How much more can people and business afford to pay?
“I think, if we are going to look at and behave responsibly, as a council, we need to look at all aspects.”
Until the budget process is completed, an immediate freeze on all non-essential expenditures has been announced. There will be no out-of-province travel and a restriction on in-province travel. Council will work with staff to honour some budget commitments, and will work with staff through the transition to ensure operations continue effectively and efficiently.
Council also imposed an immediate, temporary hiring freeze. Staeben said six vacant positions have not been filled this year, leaving questions as to their pertinence. The freeze does not include regular winter staffing requirements, and Staeben said council would hire for essential positions if the need arises.
Once the review is completed, council will make a decision on how to proceed with the vacancies.