As city administration works to implement a council-approved $60-million reduction to the municipal budget, city staff say they’re already thinking ahead to future cuts that will likely be on the table next year.During a media conference Thursday, city manager Glenda Cole said that in making the initial cuts, administration was “careful to ensure that our recommendations were aligned with the principles that council set for us,” including a “least-harm approach to service reductions” and “treating our city employees with dignity and respect.”But Cole cautioned that further savings will be needed in “2020 and beyond,” for administration to support Calgary’s economic recovery.Chief financial officer Carla Male said administration is working on “scenario options” that could lead to further cuts.“Currently in the One Calgary budget cycle, we have an anticipated tax rate increase of three per cent,” she said. “Council directed us to come back with a couple of scenarios. One scenario would reduce that tax rate increase to 1.5 per cent and another scenario bringing it down to zero per cent.”Administration will present those options during the usual November budget deliberation period, Male said.This year’s savings will mean 48 areas of service reduced and 233 fewer city jobs. While some of those will come through attrition and retirements, a total of 115 city staff will be laid off.“It’s never to easy to lose loyal and committed colleagues,” said Cole. “It’s never easy to reduce services that we know Calgarians value.”Related
Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the situation the city finds itself in could have been avoided.“This was unnecessary,” he said. “We should figure out a way to be more thoughtful about this but, ultimately, this was council’s will. I hope that we never have to do this again.”LayoffsThe city began the process of laying off staff Tuesday evening. Cole said administration couldn’t answer certain questions related to job losses because of the “need to respect our colleagues.”As of July 9, there were 14,410 city staff positions, including permanent and temporary employees, but excluding on-call and seasonal staff, as well as sworn police officers.It’s unclear when layoffs will be completed.“Our processes will take a few weeks and so we are currently working to identify and put together the right respectful and dignified process,” said Male.She added that budgets of councillors’ offices and that of the mayor will also be reduced, but it’s not yet known by how much.Nenshi said there would be a seven per cent cut to personnel in his office, which won’t fill a vacant position.TransitCity staff reiterated that riders of Calgary Transit Access won’t see any reduction in service. The service, which helps those with mobility issues, relies on both Calgary Transit staff and private vendors.Michael Thompson, general manager of transportation, said the city will “just be shifting around the way we deliver that service.“Front-line customers won’t see a difference,” he said.
File photo of a Calgary Transit bus.
But changes affecting general Calgary Transit routes will begin rolling out “in the next few weeks,” according to Thompson.About 80,000 hours of service will be cut, meaning less frequent bus and LRT service both on weekends and weekdays. Individual routes aren’t on the cutting block, but transit riders may wait longer for buses and CTrains during off-peak hours.Those changes will take effect Sept. 2.Indigenous relations and community servicesThe $482,000 cut from the city’s Indigenous Relations Office budget will mean fewer positions than planned.The office had anticipated growing from one staff member to six this year, but just two of those five new members will be added, according to Katie Black, general manager of community services.Black said civic partners will see a three per cent reduction in grants, as a result of budget cuts to community services that help fund charities.Climate resiliencyDespite planning to add two new positions to the city’s climate change resiliency team, a move that was approved by council last November, just one of those new hires will be made, according to David Duckworth, general manager of utilities and environmental protection.“We’re looking at our existing team to accommodate as much as we can . . . and recognize that we might have to slow down some of the actions that we’re pursuing right now,” he said.The city’s Climate Resilience Strategy includes 244 strategic actions to be implemented over the next 10 years.“We’ll be slowing down some of the things we’re proposing to do over the next year,” said Duckworth. “We do have three new positions approved for next year but those will all obviously be under review as well.”— With files from Meghan Potkinsshudes@postmedia.comTwitter: @SammyHudes