Port Moody must tighten its belt, Mayor Joe Trasolini said in a report presented to his council colleagues Tuesday evening.
And that is what council decided to do, voting to follow many Canadian households in these uncertain economic times by reining in spending plans for the foreseeable future.
The result is a moratorium on discretionary capital spending and review of capital projects in Port Moody until council has had time to formulate, review and adopt its 2009–2013 financial plan, which is scheduled to be finished in February or March.
In his report, Trasolini made the case for the moratorium by arguing that with the economy facing unstable conditions, the city should be extra careful with how it taxes its citizens and spends their money.
“The city needs to have clear priorities if new or expanded funding programs are announced,” Trasolini said, pointing out that in some instances, municipal spending is good because it contributes to the local economy.
Trasolini said the moratorium is needed because it would give council time to: take stock of the local economy; investigate the consequences that financial instability is having on Port Moody residents and businesses; and consult the public in a budget town hall meeting while scrutinizing the pros and cons of each proposed capital project.
The moratorium will apply to capital projects and expenditures approved and funded in 2008, as well as those still on the books from previous years, with the exception of any project already approved and funded by council where a contract has been awarded or where significant amounts of money have already been spent.
The moratorium will also exclude work that is considered an emergency or any projects that have been specifically deemed essential by council.
After unanimously approving the moratorium, council voted on a list of 11 items proposed by various city departments to be included as essential enough to avoid the moratorium. Of the 11, council approved only six for the exemption list:
• $4,200 to pay for half of the replacement of Port Moody Arts Centre’s phone system, an expense considered essential to the continued operation of the centre;
• $35,000 to fix lifted flooring at the Heritage Mountain community centre (after checking to see whether the floor is still under warranty) and replace old, damaged flooring at the Old Orchard Hall;
• $26,000 to replace ballasts and lighting at the city hall Galleria to make them more energy efficient and less prone to burning out harmful fumes;
• $22,000 to reset paving stones around city hall so people don’t trip on them;
• $16,400 to fix the tiles on the pool deck at Westhill Pool in time for the pool’s season opening in May; and
• $15,000 to improve safety and workflow issues at the PoMo library by completing storage closets and other back-room workspaces started last year by city carpenters.