Council approves direction for upcoming budget

Yorkton Council has been at work on the City’s 2021 budget behind closed doors for the past two months.

Three preliminary budget deliberation sessions were held at closed sessions of Committee of the Whole Meetings of Council on Nov. 30, Dec. 2 and 7, 2020.

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The sessions facilitated initial discussions regarding the direction of the 2021 Operational and 2021/2022 Capital Budgets, explained Jessica Matsalla – Director of Legislation and Procedures (City Clerk), with the City at the regular meeting of Yorkton Council Monday.

The Committee of the Whole Council voted on several recommendations to come forward for formal adoption at a future Regular Council Meeting, she said.

Council would proceed Monday to pass those recommendations, although the details of what those recommendations might mean were scant.

City Manager Lonnie Kaal said the recommendations came from pre-budget deliberations and were not binding in terms of the actual budget.

“This was giving direction,” she said, in essence laying the foundation for Administration to work with to create a budget to be brought before Council in an open meeting for discussion and approval.

As an example Council approved a recommendation Monday to proceed with Option 4 modified contracted services from the presentation given by the Director of Public Works on Water & Sewer Division service delivery models for the 2021 Operating Budget. The details of affected services were not part of the motion passed.

In addition Council approved four-month budgets for operation of the Gallagher Centre Concession and events, meaning operations for September to December 2021.

City Manager Lonnie Kaal confirmed Tuesday the four-month budget essentially closes the rental areas and concession at the Gallagher Centre until September -- for example the upstairs area will not be available for weddings.

Councillor Darcy Zaharia questioned if affected staff were made aware of layoffs.

Kaal said they were notified Monday.

When Zaharia questioned what the notice period was the answer was not forthcoming publicly.

“I prefer not to answer that in open Council,” responded Kaal.

Kaal told Yorkton This Week Tuesday morning the issue was one which “was kind of a personnel piece.” noting those are usually dealt with in-camera.

Kaal did confirm five layoffs which are deemed temporary but unless something changes significantly on the COVID front will extend from January to September.

Coun. Quinn Haider questioned whether a decision to go with only four months of operation could be altered if the COVID-19 situation were brought under control more quickly than anticipated. He was assured by Administration they could be reopened.

In fact, all the approved recommendations were simply providing Administration with guidelines to work within as the budget for 2021 in finalized. Those recommendations included a 2021 budget with a zero per cent increase on the operating side.

In addition, they called for zero percent and one-percent increases for the Capital budget, and further bring those options back to a January, 2021 Committee of the Whole Council meeting for consideration.

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