Budget deliberations underway in Moncton

MONCTON, N.B. – Moncton city councillors began wrestling with the city’s operating budget Thursday, the first of two days of deliberations to decide the city’s financial priorities.

The city is trying to finalize a $145 million budget for 2015 and is mandated by the province to balance its books.

That could be difficult. The city faces a potential $2 million deficit and still doesn’t know the size of the equalization grant from the province.

The meeting took a turn Thursday morning. During a discussion on city salaries, Councillor Daniel Bourgeois raised a motion to eliminate the City Manager position, with City Manager Jacques Dubé in the room.

Dubé has held the post since 2009 and is in charge of managing the day-to-day operations of the city, and is responsible for a workforce of more than 600 employees.

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Mayor George LeBlanc immediately called for a recess and ordered council to reconvene in private since the matter would involve a discussion of personnel.

Council returned to a public session and Bourgeois withdrew the motion, saying he had been advised by Human Resources and the legal department that there were several other factors that needed to be considered.

“My intentions were honorable, sincere,” he told council. “To save $200,000/year by eliminating a position, but apparently it’s much more complicated than that so I will withdraw the motion.”

“I want to apologize to the city manager for any embarrassment that this may have caused him,” Mayor LeBlanc said.

One of the biggest challenges Moncton is facing is estimating the provincial property assessment rate for this year, and how much the city’s equalization grant will be.

Those numbers are released at the end of November.

The city is anticipating the equalization payment will drop to $5.6 million. This year, it received $8.5 million from the province.
Deliberations will continue Friday morning.