Major projects approved, police cuts discussed as budget deadline closes in

City council has given the green light to two recreation centres in the west end, with just days to go until a budget – and tax increase – is finalized down at city hall.

 The $153-million Coronation rec centre and Velodrome, along with the Lewis Estates rec centre and library, are two of three major capital infrastructure projects that were discussed Tuesday. The third is the $80-million Ambleside maintenance and industrial yard. Coun. Andrew Knack has been watching the projects’ development and is ready for all three to move forward.

“These are all projects that I think are part of the critical core services that municipalities provide,” Knack said. “In my mind none of these projects are an ‘if’ we’re going to build them, it’s always been a ‘when.’ And they’re all at the stage where they’re shovel ready.”

 The Lewis Estates rec centre will come in around $40 million less than originally planned, after removing the “Academic Centre” from its design.

While the three projects add up to many millions in spending, Knack maintained that because the city would be borrowing the money over a 25-year period, it doesn’t translate to big hikes for taxpayers. He’s hoping council can continue to work towards a tax increase that falls somewhere between zero and 1.8 per cent.

CUTS TO POLICE ON THE TABLE

One of the major debates this budget cycle has been the police budget. In a presentation to council, Chief Dale McPhee warned that further cuts to policing would result in decreases to service and potentially affect public safety, as well as affect plans to increase the police presence downtown and at transit centers.

Coun. Michael Janz put forward a motion to remove a planned $12-million increase to the police budget in 2022. He wants to pause and take a closer look at how police are funded, and whether the city is getting the most bang for its buck.

“We need to take a comprehensive approach to safety,” Janz said. “Ideally we can take measures that will free up the police to do real police work, and delegate many of the mental health and other challenges back to [social] agencies.”

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi has a similar stance, taking a critical eye to the police budget. The mayor is looking to more broadly examine the complex issue of public safety, and all the components that contribute to it.

“What I would like to see [developed] is an integrated approach, a really coordinated approach, bringing the right people to the table,” Sohi said. “Having police there, having social agencies there, having the non-profit sector there, and having the province there – and really grappling with these very complicated issues that are hurting our people.”

A total of 12 capital budget amendments have been put forward, along with 25 operational amendments. City council has until Friday to complete budget deliberations, when the final tax increase will be announced.

View original article here Source