Meeting this week, the city's finance committee told city staff they wanted monthly updates on progress in reducing the city's operating deficit.
As reported last week by Sudbury.com, Greater Sudbury's $593-million budget for this year is already $7.3 million in the red, largely due to higher than forecast winter maintenance costs.
Because of record snowfall in the first few months of the year, it is already $4.2 million over budget estimates — $300,000 higher than the $3.9-million shortfall estimated in June. The city has received 259 cm of snow so far in 2019, compared to the 30-year average of 164 cm.
To deal with the red ink, the city is postponing hiring non-union staff in areas where it's feasible, looking for capital projects that can be cancelled or postponed to decrease draws from reserves.
Plus, the 2019 budget includes $4 million for debt payments for money it hasn't borrowed yet, because projects such as the Kingsway Entertainment Centre have yet to begin.
“Any portion of this amount that is not required for debt repayment in 2019 can be used to address the deficit,” the city said in a release.
The release also said reserve funds — the Tax Rate Stabilization Reserve and the Capital Financing Reserve Fund — can be used to offset the budget deficit. If the books aren't balanced by the end of 2019, it must be paid for in the 2020 budget, which could affect property taxes.
Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer, speaking at Tuesday's finance committee meeting, said council should get more current information on the budget, rather than the quarterly reports they receive now.
“Could we have a monthly report to update us on where we are at?” Sizer asked.
CAO Ed Archer said staff meets each month to go over the city's finances, and that information could be shared with council.
“We’d be happy to share that report,” Archer said.
In addition to winter maintenance, other budget shortfalls for 2019 so far include:
- Pioneer Manor, the city owned long-term care facility. The budget is $860,000 higher than forecast. The added spending is a result of new benefits for staff at the Manor related to a new short- and long-term disability programs for unionized staff.
- Transit and fleet. The budget is $790,000 in the red, where aging city vehicles are costing more every year to maintain, particularly older Sudbury Transit buses.
- Leisure Services department. The budget is $420,000 in the red, a result of two factors: fewer people are renting community halls, booking ice time at local arenas and buying memberships at city-owned exercise facilities. The rest is related to the severe winter. Crews had to clear much more snow from the facilities than usual.
- Other departments spending more than their budget forecast include Sudbury Transit ($340,000, primarily because of OT costs and winter maintenance), fire ($310,000, due to arbitration awards and overtime caused by staffing shortages) and police ($340,000, due to staffing costs, overtime and training).