There was unrest at Moose Jaw City Hall last night as budget talks continued for 2019. At the centre of a more than hour-long exchange with Administration was the priority-based budget process that City Council undertook this year. The idea is that the projects that rank the highest on the priority scale get the money.
But when presented with a report on projects that could be cut in order for other projects to be completed, the meeting went off the rails and turned into a back and forth over the process. It ended with City Manager Jim Puffalt, who is going through his first budget since being hired, encouraging Council to focus on getting these budgets approved so they can get to work.
"I don't know your process. I'm just telling you from the outside looking in you need to get budgets and tenders done in January and February so you're hitting the peak tender time period, and you're not going to contractors that are already full for the year saying 'can you squeeze this in?'," detailed Puffalt. "Because when you squeeze something in you pay a premium to get that."
Some councillors said they would have rather seen small cutbacks to several projects rather than eliminating a handful of items entirely.
"It's extremely difficult up here as a councillor to try and pick and choose where the cuts should go and where they shouldn't, Administration has done an excellent job in identifying what's required. Now, we need to figure out how we're going to something that's affordable and feasible," said Councillor Chris Warren.
Falling in that same category was Councillor Dawn Luhning, who said they fall into the same routine and bad habits each time around.
"We should be able to say 'cut 4% out of the budgets,' and then we should have a conversation around that money saved and where we're going to reallocate that money if we want to... and if we want to increase taxes or what have you. But no, we get into the weeds, we do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. It really is insanity, I hate to say," added Luhning.
Biting his tongue was Councillor Brian Swanson, who chose to share his opinion on the matter, but not all of it.
"I agree, I find the process all kind of rather, I can think of adjectives, but I'll think I'll spare [everyone]," explained Swanson.
Swanson introduced a motion last month to bypass the priority based system... and called for a report on options for an 8% cut to the budget, Administration is still working on that report.
Budget talks will take a break until January 21st.