Council eyes cost-cutting ahead of Monday deliberations

Now comes the harder part.

Faced with a $216 million budget for 2024 that would trigger a 7.2 per cent levy increase for taxpayers – deemed unacceptable by Sault Mayor Matthew Shoemaker – trims have been proposed to reduce the levy to 6.38 per cent.

The smart money says Monday night’s City Council budget meeting will be about further cuts, but it won’t be easy.

One of the largest budget items, is the Sault Ste. Marie Police Services budget. Council is expected to approve a 2024 SSMPS budgetary increase of 8.47 per cent, or a total of $36,085,608. SSMPS had originally proposed a budget of just over $37.3 million, an increase of 9.8 per cent. City Police is aiming to hire 16 officers to form its downtown division. The expansion of the force will now take place over four years rather than three.

“The biggest pressures are coming from the Police, Social Services and Public Health,” says Chief Administrative Officer, Malcolm White, adding addictions, mental health issues, homelessness issues, and primary health care are understood as serious challenges to the community. “We (also) continue to have significant operational challenges,” says White who pointed to rising fuel and insurance costs as sources of pressure on the municipal operations budget. “All in all, on the municipal side, we’ve ended up in a fairly good position, with (an increase) a shade over two per cent.”

Looking at its operational budget, a series of motions will be brought forward Monday to get to the 6.38 mark. Mayor Shoemaker’s recommendations include phasing-in improvements to the Public Works fleet over the next three years, rather than two. This slices $183,000 from next year’s budget.

The past year was year one of a four-year plan to modernize the Public Works fleet. Another $200,000 could come from the city’s tax stabilization reserve. Ward 3 Councillor Angela Caputo wants council to direct that the inflationary adjustment to capital allocations for 2024 be reduced by $100,000.

Other motions to further reduce costs include a reduction in increases generated by fuel, along with utilities and natural gas, for a combined savings of $50,000.

The Mayor also proposes only three of six summer student positions be filled, for a savings of $34,368.

Ward 1 Coun. Sandra Hollingsworth has tabled a motion the the Crimestoppers grant be slashed by $25,000. Hollingsworth also has a motion seconded by Ward 4 Coun. Marchy Bruni to eliminate the Algoma University grant, to save $40,000.

Ward 2 Coun. Lisa Vezeau-Allen proposes the Mayor and Council Special Funds budget be reduced to $15,000, from $35,000.

Council’s Monday night budget meeting, with further cuts possible, begins at 5 p.m. Tuesday evening has been set aside for further budget deliberation, if needed.

Author

  • Ron Jokelainen

    Ron has returned to writing and reporting after 27 years with Ontario Lottery & Gaming. He began as a staff writer with OLG in 1994 before moving to Sports Marketing in 1997. He retired as a Senior sports analyst in 2021. Prior to OLG, Ron worked in radio and print journalism in the Sault and Simcoe. Folks may remember Ron "Williams" with CFYN-CHAS in the early 90s A graduate of Windsor's St. Clair College Journalism program, Ron lists drumming, gardening and walking among his favourite hobbies.

2 thoughts on “Council eyes cost-cutting ahead of Monday deliberations

  1. The city is ever shrinking and there are far too many draining the system instead of supporting it, higher taxes are inevitable. Between this and the Shoe wanting new jewelry on our dime and a boatload of other frivolous wants, no wonder the city is always teetering on the edge of brokedom.
    Never mind squandering more tens of millions on the deceased downtown, fix our damn roads they are destroying our cars!

  2. Council has never heard the expression HOLD THE LINE UNTIL TIMES ARE BETTER.
    Stick with basic necessary expenditures and forget pie-in-the-sky ventures.
    Have each dept reduce its budget by say 5 percent…we all know those budgets are padded.
    Stop hiring out-of-towners and fully utilize the city employees.
    Fewer superintendents and more workers.
    Stop plowing paved sidewalks daily when it does not snow.

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