Estevan City Council has wrapped up its initial deliberations on the 2013 financial plan.
The capital budget was studied on December 12. The operations documents were examined during meetings on December 13 and 18.
"I see that our Council is pulling very hard to monitor what we're spending, and I think that's a good thing," said Mayor Roy Ludwig. "We have made the commitment for growth, and of course, you have to spend money for growth."
But Ludwig wants Council to take a cautious approach to spending money.
Council will take another look at the budget in March or April, Ludwig said. They will have to make any final decisions on expenses, establish a mill rate for 2013, and set the utility rates for the water/waste water division.
"We are looking at more things that we can do, and more monies that we can save, on the operational side," said Ludwig.
Council is looking to move forward with "incremental" increases for tax increases, he said.
"I know last year we had a mill (increase)," said Ludwig. "Moving forward, I would like to see it down to half a mill."
A full mill puts a heavy financial strain on some residents, he said, as it becomes difficult for people on fixed incomes to pay their other bills.
"I think we have to be careful as we move forward," said Ludwig. "I know we've been doing a lot of great things, and a lot of development."
Representatives from Leisure Services attended the meeting on the 18th, and helped Council out by recommending the removal of several projects: a $50,000 play structure for Royal Heights Park; $225,000 to replace the spray park at Royal Heights Park, a new water truck for $50,000; and additional wheelchair accessible doors for the front entrance of the Leisure Centre for $50,000.
Aquatics and program manager Nathan Jesse said minor repairs can take place on the play structure and the spray park. More investigation is needed to determine the type of water truck that's needed. And they would like to seek grants for the wheelchair accessible doors.
They'll also purchase fewer security cameras for the Leisure Centre and surrounding facilities, which will reduce the total cost from $120,000 to $66,700.
Leisure Services did ask for money for a couple of projects: $40,000 to convert the infield of a ball diamond at Luscar Park from shale to grass, a procedure that has occurred at other diamonds in recent years; and $29,675 for a second forklift that will be used for special events at Spectra Place.
Even though projects have been removed, and some operation expenses have been reduced, the budget still has a deficit of several hundred thousand dollars.
Council did give the green light for several projects to go to tender immediately: a commercial mower, a new dishwasher for Spectra Place; a new floor scrubber; wheels for the Spectra Place stage; and new computer software.
This was the first budget deliberation for Ludwig since he became mayor in October; he had spent the previous 18 years analyzing the budget as a councillor. He said the experience wasn't all that different from being a councillor, as he just had to ensure the meeting was well run.
He was also pleased that the budget discussions went fairly smoothly for the new Council.