Nanaimo officials begin the second of four presentations on the city's parks, recreation and culture department this morning as part of a pilot project to test a new budget process.
Mayor John Ruttan and councillors were scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. for an overview of the city's aquatic facilities and services, as presented by department head, Richard Harding. Last week, city politicians were treated to an overview of the city's arenas.
The exercise was borne out of last spring's budget talks, which saw three councillors - Bill Bestwick, Bill McKay and Jim Kipp - vote against the 2013 budget ad five-year financial plan.
One of the objections raised by the trio was the fact that money for some projects included in the budget had already been spent before council approval. Another was that they felt there was not enough time to review items in the budget before the provincially-mandated budget deadline in May.
Finance director Brian Clemens said the breakdown will give elected officials a chance to compare how departmental spending affects service levels and if they want to use the method to look at other city departments.
City staff members have provided city council with overviews of each department in the past, but this will be the most detailed exercise yet, said Clemens.
"It's partly to get council comfortable with everything that's in the budget and to stimulate discussion about different budget items," he said.
"In this one, what we're doing a little bit more than we've done in the past is talk about service level," Clemens added.
"So what exactly is being provided; like how many hours of ice time, how many hours of aquatics programs, those kinds of things."
In past budget talks, councillors have clashed over not just if to cut spending, but where to cut spending.
Moreover, the relationship between city spending and service delivery has not always been clear. Harding's department, which accounts for 21.7 per cent of municipal expenses overall, has been flagged by some councillors as an area where savings might be found.
Of the $26.7-million in department spending, almost a quarter - 24 per cent - is dedicated to aquatic services, including the Nanaimo Aquatic Centre and Beban Park Pool.
Approximately $5.3 million in direct operating and maintenance costs for 2014.
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