Iqaluit councillors begin line-by-line review of 2014 budget
Unspent 2013 amounts questioned at first session
After a year of recurring questions about city expenses at council meetings, Iqaluit City Council was set to scrutinize the city’s proposed 2014 budget line by line, Jan. 9, the first day of budgetary review for the new year.
“There were issues throughout the year where people didn’t realize what they had done when they passed the budget,” said Coun. Romeyn Stevenson, who headed up the session as chair of the city’s finance committee of the whole.
“This is what we’re being more clear. We’re going to go through everything as carefully as possible, so that at the end of it, everyone’s comfortable with what they just passed, and there’s no assumptions.”
Municipal councillors in Nunavut’s largest community did just that on their first day, stopping often to discuss unspent amounts set aside for unrealized projects and programs.
Topping the list of such unspent amounts was more than $400,000 earmarked in 2012 and 2013 for training and professional development for city employees.
“If by the end of the year none of this is spent, it means we’re not doing our job,” said Coun. Joanasie Akumalik, pointing to city administration and council.
Coun. Kenny Bell asked why administration had nothing to show for employee training, which “allow employees to perform up to expectations, and learn more.”
Stevenson agreed, adding employees “will feel more attached to their workplace if they feel [the employer] is supportive of development of staff.”
The city’s financial controller, Geneva Chislett, replied that staff within the city’s various departments “may be a little confused as to whose responsibility it is to look up the training that is required.
“Is it the person in the department, or is it the person in HR [human resources] that we require to do it?”
Robyn Mackey, acting director of human resources, added that the city’s training officer and each department must work together to resolve training programs.
She pointed to one recent example where training officer Maria Quqsuut offered a training program for public works employees.
“In the new year we want to start dong that,” she said. “Going to each department and checking to see what your training needs are, and where do you want us to see your staff go.”
Mayor John Graham said the city must deliver on its commitment to training, as it “ties into succession planning, and it ties in with the Inuit employment strategy.”
“I hate spending money, but this is something I would whole-heartedly add more money into,” said Bell, recalling that many city staff positions are now filled on an interim basis, after the departure of permanent full-time staff.
“I think all departments should be picking up,” he said.
Also budgeted for 2013 was a plan to hire an animal-control officer, to work for municipal enforcement, which the city has not yet done.
The city’s dog and pet-owner bylaw, passed in 2013, calls for such a new staff member to enforce the new rules.
Budget discussions continue Jan. 10. Last year’s budget topped $40 million in spending.