City of Victoria’s 2012 budget a ‘short-term fix’

Finance director says hard choices are ahead for council

Leave the hard discussions for the 2013 budget.

That’s the message from the city’s finance director, Brenda Warner, in the latest of the 2012 budget discussions by city council.

The city must decide which services it can continue to provide and which it can afford to drop, Warner said. These big-order decisions, however, can’t happen on time to meet the current budget deadlines.

The goal, she said, is to “get through 2012.”

‘Getting through’ 2012 means clawing back the city’s planned annual increase to the capital budget, and to its capital reserve fund, to the tune of $1.2 million. It’s a strategy council has used for the past several years to help balance the books, but it’s not sustainable over the long term, Warner said.

“My desire is that we have workshops in 2012 to make decisions that will then take us forward in terms of reducing our operating (budget).”

For now, she suggested some possible areas for cuts to the capital budget, including the city’s bike strategy, parks, and urban forest plans. Most on council agreed with the plan, but Coun. Lisa Helps objected.

“I’m not comfortable with this strategy,” Helps said. “I’m not comfortable with cutting $1.2 million from (the capital budget) when we keep hearing that the operating budget is the thing we need to look at.”

Council needs to start “veering the ship in the right direction now,” she added.

Public presentations on the budget begin in the coming weeks.

rholmen@vicnews.com