REPORTING · 25th March 2010
Barry Pankhurst took the stand at the Kitimat City Council meeting on Monday, March 22nd to speak about the budget process. He made it clear he was speaking as a private citizen.
“The reason I’m here is to bring concerns about the budget and the process that was used. The way the system is here, we don’t have free access as a group to sit down with Council and the Mayor and make suggestions about where to make budget cuts if you have to make budget cuts,” said Pankhurst.
“I just want to point out that in November, a number of councillors and administrators made the statement that Eurocan Shutdown would not affect us for the first couple of years. We kind of stepped back and we knew we had some cuts coming but we thought we had time to get organized and involved with the decision making. One of the things I’m finding in the community when I’m talking to people is their concerns that they never had input into how the cuts were going to be made and we’re having a hard time understanding… we’re looking at a 20% increase for this year and yet that is going to create an extra 2 ½ million dollars from Alcan, an extra 1 ½ million dollars from Eurocan and on top of it, we’re still going to get that 4 million dollars from Eurocan this year. Assessments of homes have gone up and I don’t know how that’s going to factor into what I’m going to pay in taxes […] All I’m asking is for a community meeting where Council and the Mayor explain why they are doing what they’re doing because it doesn’t make sense to most of us. You get extra money with the tax increase, you're still getting Eurocan money and you're cutting services,” said Pankhurst.
He pointed out Council did not consult the Old Timers Hockey League. In addition, they cut back the swimming pool hours and closed the summer wading pool program. He asked if they considered the university students coming home for the summer and asked the Council what the students would think to not finding those job opportunities available to them.
He stated the response he has received from the Council is not to worry; they know what they are doing. However, he pointed out they never put this towards the community. He said they should strive to make cuts away from the people who were most affected by the tax increase, seniors and children. He suggested cuts should be made to administration.
“Maybe by listening to the public, you’re going to change your priorities in what you are going to cut. I know it’s an extremely tough job,” said Pankhurst. “By raising the taxes, your going to create more money and yet you're cutting services and I don’t understand that.”
Mayor Joanne Monaghan had a response:
“All of the meetings that we had were open to the public. Where the different department heads did tell us exactly what they felt [were] cuts without making a huge difference in the rights of the people so unfortunately, it should have been on television, it wasn’t. It was open to the public, those three days,” said Mayor Joanne Monaghan.
Pankhurst suggested having a meeting before the budget meetings. He said the department heads had to protect their territories, but the cuts made were affecting the public, so they should have an opportunity to sit down and find out what is going on.
He also pointed out by getting the information second hand, it would change the message.