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City's new budget boss keeps close eye on the weather

'I have it on good authority that November and December are going to be gorgeous' - Mayor Christian Provenzano, who will leave office after the Oct. 24 election  
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We've still got a couple of solid snow months coming at the end of the year, but city officials have already burned through $6.06 million of the $7.20 million in this year's winter control budget.

With a little over a million dollars left to get us through November and December, the Sault's new manager of finance is predicting that part of the city budget responsible for sanding, salting and plowing our roads and sidewalks won't be enough.

"Winter control, at the end of June, is anticipating a net over-expenditure of $686,000 as a result of the number as well as significance of winter events compared to 2021," Steve Facey said in a report to this week's city council meeting.

"As per the organization’s reserves and funds policy, any surplus or deficit will be contributed to or from the winter control reserve at year-end," Facey said in his update on the second quarter ended June 30.

It was Facey's first meeting of Sault Ste. Marie city council.

He's a Sault native who's occupied a similar role for the past six years at the City of Greater Sudbury.

Facey has now returned to Sault Ste. Marie with his wife and seven-year-old daughter.

Here, his job responsibilities include tracking variances from the city budget, making sure expenditures and revenues are in accordance with approved budget estimates, and keeping city departments apprised of their budget status.

At Monday's meeting, Shelley Schell, the city's treasurer and commissioner of finance, said the winter control reserve fund contains less than one million dollars.

"In 2021, where we had minor winter conditions – it wasn't as bad, we didn't have as many events, we pretty much broke even for winter control." Schell said.

"But council has removed $500,000 from the winter control budget, so when we have a bad winter, like we did at the beginning of this year, there is a good potential that we will exceed our budget."

"That's what we're presenting in this report right now, is just to advise council there is a potential that this will happen."

"We'll hope that October and November and December are reasonable months," said Larry Girardi, deputy chief adminstrative officer of public works and engineering services.

"I have it on good authority that October and November and December are going to be gorgeous," quipped Mayor Provenzano, who will step down from municipal office after the Oct. 24 local elections.

Facey, meanwhile, also expressed concern about the effect of fuel prices on the Sault's overall fiscal fitness.

"Prices in Canada began to rise in December of 2021 and continued to increase due to the military invasion of Ukraine," he said.

"It is anticipated that a net over-expenditure of approximately $467,000 when analyzing public works and transit."

"Supply chain interruptions and labour shortages have impacted the organization in 2022. It is difficult to quantify the impact at this time, however, future reports will provide additional detail."

"Based on the first six months, net assessment growth was +0.31 per cent compared to +0.07 per cent in 2021. The number of permits issued has decreased from 685 in 2021 to 537 from January to June."

"However, the construction value is much higher totalling $143 million in 2022 compared to $103 million in 2021," Facey said.

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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

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