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City council thwarts budgetarian advance

There's a move afoot at Sault Ste. Marie City Hall to get city councillors more directly involved in preparing annual city budgets.
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There's a move afoot at Sault Ste. Marie City Hall to get city councillors more directly involved in preparing annual city budgets.

But exactly how this intervention into work normally done by city staff is going to work, has not yet been decided.

Last night, City Council turned down a bid by its own finance committee to expand its mandate, voting 7-5 against allowing the committee to review and prioritize supplementary budget items.

"I see that responsibility lying with council as a whole," said Ward 1 Councillor Paul Christian. "The goal is good, but I don't think it should be the finance committee," Christian said.

Members of the finance committee include Ward 1 Councillor Susan Myers, Ward 3's Matthew Shoemaker, Ward 5's Marchy Bruni and Frank Fata, as well as Ward 6's Ross Romano.

All those members, with the exception of Councillor Myers, voted last night in favour of expanding the committee's mandate.

So did Ward 1's Steve Butland.
 
Voting against the expanded mandate were Christian and Myers, as well as Ward 2's Terry Sheehan, Ward 3's Judy Hupponen, Ward 4's Lou Turco and Rick Niro and Ward 6's Joe Krmpotich.
 
"I don't think we should be prioritizing the supplemental items," Councillor Myers said. "I think it's staff's job to dig deeper at the request of council....and it's this council's job to prioritize the matter."

Councillor Christian said he would nonetheless support having the finance committee develop a a set of criteria that council could use to rank supplemental budget requests.

But Councillors Myers and Butland both rejected that suggestion, arguing that developing criteria of that kind would be very time-consuming.

"It's unfortunate," Councillor Shoemaker, who chairs the finance committee, told SooToday after last night's decision.

"I think the finance committee could have played a role in doing a bit of the legwork in respect of the budget," Shoemaker said. "But if council doesn't want that mandate given to the finance committee, I respect that decision."

Mayor Christian Provenzano, who sits on the finance committee as a non-voting ex officio member, didn't vote last night.

"The finance committee was just trying to be helpful and useful," the mayor said. "I don't think there's going to be anyone who has a significant sense of loss tonight," he said.

Councillor Sheehan pointed out that the finance committee originally had just three members of council, but now has six members including the non-voting mayor.

"That's half of council." Sheehan said. "In a case where councillors get sick, that can be a majority....I think that should be changed as well,"

Earlier SooToday coverage of this story

Councillors feeling all rushtrated by budget hustle

 



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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans six decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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