The District of Houston council discussed plans for budget cuts in 2014 to prepare for the revenue loss from HFP next year.

Council cuts spending to save money in 2014 budget

At a budget meeting last week, council went through 65 key projects in the draft 2014 budget, looking at ways they could cut back spending.

Houston council is looking at ways to save money and cut back on spending in 2014.

At a budget meeting last Wednesday, council went through a list of 65 key projects that are part of the 2014 draft budget, planning to contract more work locally and re-look at some of the ways they do things.

“There is a way to do most of these [planned projects], that’s the good news,” said Director of Finance William Wallace.

He says that between grants, Northern Development Initiative funding and Gas Tax funding, as well as reserves allocated to various projects, they can form a balanced budget with most of the key projects.

Looking at ways to save money, council discussed contracting out various District work instead of buying equipment and doing the work themselves.

Council considered budgeting $200,000 for a down payment on a new street sweeper and $7,000 for a grave digging attachment for the 2004 bobcat.

“Contract it out,” said Councillor Kyle Thomson.

Thomson says there are local businesses that own street sweepers, and the cost to contract someone to do grave digging would be minimal.

“The way I’ve been thinking about this public works stuff, is that if there’s a big enough usage that the town needs it, that somebody else can actually build a business off it, then we keep it within the town, such as street sweeping or garbage pickup,” he said.

Staff agreed to look into the costs of contracting out grave digging and street sweeping to see if savings can be made.

The draft budget also included a new dump box for the District dump truck, budgeted at $90,000, and paid out of equipment reserve funds.

Mayor Holmberg said they should look at the condition of the box and see if they can put on a new liner instead.

“A lot of people just redo their boxes,” he said, adding that a new liner would cost around $10,000, and save the District a lot of money.

The District budgeted $35,000 for needed upgrades to technology equipment, which includes seven server and wireless components, 15 computer stations, 18 notebooks, and 11 printers.

Having set aside money for such upgrades for many years, the $35,000 budgeted was scheduled to be paid through reserve funds.

Discussing the new computers the District needs, council directed staff to look into leasing computers instead of buying them.

Mayor Bill Holmberg said Finning leases their computers, and it seems to be a lot cheaper than buying them.

District staff is looking to see if savings can be made through leasing, and they will report to council at the next budget meeting.

Included in the 2014 to 2018 financial plan is a new fire truck, budgeted at  $450,000, to replace a 1979 pumper truck.

But council said Fire Chief Jim Daigneault will need to make his case to council before purchasing anything.

The District currently buys replacement fire equipment through a five-year lease arrangement, set up so that the cost of the lease is about the same as the upfront purchase price, said Wallace.

Council discussed a proposed $10,000 heater replacements at the Houston arena, deciding not to budget money towards it.

“Staff have been encouraged to follow-up on grant or donation opportunities, energy efficiency savings options and to consider the use of regular annual building maintenance money, and if a way can be found by combining those items to pay for new heaters, then they will bring that proposal to council for further consideration,” Wallace said.

The next budget meeting is at 7 p.m. Dec. 4 at the Council Chambers, where council will form a five-year draft budget for 2014 to 2018.



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