Recreation programs still on Saint John council chopping block

Click to play video: 'Recreation program cuts remain on the table for Saint John 2021 budget'
Recreation program cuts remain on the table for Saint John 2021 budget
WATCH: Saint John Common Council has begun the process of looking for possible areas to cut to balance its budget in 2021. As Andrew Cromwell reports, even more difficult discussions are expected in the coming months – Nov 19, 2019

Saint John common council has begun the task of deciding how to deal with a budget deficit of about $11 million in 2021.

In the end, a number of parks and recreation programs, including a summer free playground program, the Passport to Parks program and an outdoor ice rink at Rainbow Park in the city’s south end, remain in the “sustainability hopper.”

Small items on the budget are, in fact, still very important, according to those who sit around the council horseshow.

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“They’re quality-of-life items,” said Coun. John MacKenzie. “They’re items that … draw people to a city, and we’re trying to grow Saint John.”

Council did not feel the same way when it came to eliminating lifeguard services at Fisher Lakes Beach. It concluded they are simply too important at public beaches.

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“Not all the time but a lot of the time, there’s a lot of people up there, especially on the weekend,” MacKenzie explained. “I think we’ve got to keep them.”

The cuts council is still considering total about $145,000 in savings.

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Deputy Mayor Shirley McAlary says these deliberations are only the beginning.

“It is going to be really tough,” she said. “We’re probably going to be talking people because we cannot balance the budget in 2021 without cutting, and I mean cutting people.”

She believes this will happen through layoffs.

“We’ve always scraped through and balanced our budget for years, and in 2021, we’re just not going to be able to make it,” she said. “We are where we are.”

The next meeting of common council is Dec. 2.

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