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Volume 21, Number 47, Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Small cuts also part of debate

Our transit program is still under attack, despite excellent results since the relaunch this September.

Ridership is up more than 20 per cent compared to last fall, thanks to new, more accessible buses and faster, more convenient routes.

It’s so good that just the revenue from this fall will raise total income from transit by 15 per cent for the whole year. Next year, with a full year of increased revenue, we can expect more.

City staff are being careful. They are only expecting 30 per cent more income next year.

Critics don’t believe it. Councillor Arjun Randhawa said last week that a couple of good months don’t guarantee a trend.

Rather than celebrating a success, he appears unhappy.

Councillor Sheldon Bossert also questioned how much we ever hope to recover from transit riders. “What’s our end goal in this,” he asked.

Both councillors voted against giving Fort Saskatchewan a local transit service and both appear to continue to oppose it.

Like many critics, they refuse to accept the need for transit and other transportation alternatives.

They also refuse to accept that transit costs no more to run than one of our ice arenas, or that riders contribute about as much as any user of local facilities. Our total recreation budget is $8 million this year, of which only $2 million is paid by users.

Our transit system will cost $1.2 million to operate in 2017. It is expected to earn $221,000 in user fees.

Transit is on the right track. There is real reason to feel that with care and improvement it will only get better. It will never pay for itself, of course. But it will be a success.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Traffic cameras big part of budgetNEWS/Entries/2016/11/30_Traffic_cameras_big_part_of_budget.html

Transit success disappoints critics

Major projects were approved, but City Council made several minor cuts to Fort Saskatchewan’s 2017 budget during debate this past month.

$50,000 was cut from the Learning Culture Development Program, a staff training program for supervisors and managers in a split vote of Council. Three members disagreed with the motion by Councillor Arjun Randhawa.

Another $200,000 was also cut from the staff travel and seminar expense budget. Councillor Sheldon Bossert suggested this and received unanimous support. The budget for this area is far greater than actually used by staff and therefore can be cut without an impact, he said.

A request for $133,000 to build a picnic area in the West River’s Edge park was also turned down.

$200,000 was taken from the Capital budget general fund in another split vote. Councillor Randhawa made the motion, saying this money had not been spent in 2016 and is therefore not necessary. Mayor Gale Katchur tried to keep the money in the budget, however, saying it was part of good fiscal management to keep a cushion for emergency needs.

Fort Saskatchewan’s total 2017 operating budget is $75.1 million with a capital budget of $17.3 million. Council gives final approval to the budget on Tuesday, Dec. 13.

Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016