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Council dips its toes into 'one of the most difficult budgets' they've ever tackled

City council is scheduled for at least two more nights of budget deliberations at 4 p.m. both Tuesday and Wednesday, during which they’re expected to get into the thick of things
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Greater Sudbury city council had barely dipped their toes into budget deliberations by the time Monday night’s finance and administration committee meeting ended at the three-hour mark. 

A series of 11 resolutions that comprise potential 2022 budget changes still need to be voted on and are expected to be handled during meetings scheduled for both Tuesday and Wednesday.

“This is one of the most difficult budgets our council has faced,” Mayor Brian Bigger said after tonight’s meeting, adding that the 28 business cases facing city council will be their biggest challenge during the next two nights of meetings.

Each one of these cases has been included because the majority of city council vote in favour of having city administration draft them, therefore, each one has been determined to carry merit. As such, Bigger said he anticipates seeing each case debated by city council.

City administration tabled their proposed 2022 budget on Nov. 2, which proposed a 4.7-per-cent tax increase, including a special capital levy of 1.5 per cent for infrastructure. 

Although city administration followed council’s direction in drafting this budget, it has yet to be debated or voted on by the city’s elected officials. Pending they get through all 11 resolutions by the end of Wednesday’s meeting, the end result will be considered the budget, which council is expected to finalize on Dec. 14. 

Tonight’s meeting saw presentations by the Nickel District Conservation Authority (Conservation Sudbury), which has proposed a budget increase of $33,110, which is a 3.04-per-cent jump. 

Public Health Sudbury and Districts medical officer of health Dr. Penny Sutcliffe presented the proposed 2022 health unit budget, which includes an increase of two per cent (.47 per cent for salaries, 1.27 per cent for benefits and .28 non-salary expenses). 

Included within this budget is an ask of $7,662,119 from the city, which is a five-per-cent increase from last year’s request. 

City council will vote on Conservation Sudbury’s budget request as resolution No. 1 on Tuesday, while the Public Health request is under resolution No. 2. 

Much of the balance of tonight’s meeting was eaten up by a lengthy debate about council remuneration, which ended when Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh called a motion to defer the discussion to January. 

“This is supposed to be a budget meeting,” she said, prompting the majority of council to approve punting the debate to next year. 

Jakubo was about to present a couple of motions to city council when tonight’s meeting hit its three-hour mark, at which time a vote to extend the meeting failed to pass. 

The motions would have included one requesting that all three budget meetings be treated as a continuation of a single meeting so a majority of council members would be allowed to call something for reconsideration instead of a two-thirds majority. The other motion would have done away with the three-hour time limit. 

The following city councillors voted in favour of extending the meeting beyond three hours: Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann, Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland, Ward 6 René Lapierre, Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer, Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh, Ward 10 Coun. Fern Cormier and Ward 7 Coun. Mike Jakubo, who also chaired the meeting. 

The following city council members voted against the extension: Mayor Brian Bigger, Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti, Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini, Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier, Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan and Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc. 

A two-thirds majority was required to extend the meeting, so tonight’s finance and administration meeting, which was intended to serve as budget deliberations, ended before they got into a report that digs into the city’s 2022 budget.

Budget deliberations are scheduled to continue Tuesday night beginning at 4 p.m. A livestream of proceedings can be accessed by clicking here.

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com