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Victoria setting spending priorities as it prepares to cut millions

Jun 19 2012

Developing public-transportation infrastructure ranked high Monday, as Victoria councillors worked to set spending priorities as they prepare to cut millions.

Working with consultants, councillors ranked more than 115 initiatives, ranging from developing transportation options such as bus-only lanes on the Douglas Street corridor (ranked high) to considering a dog park downtown (ranked low).

Council has resolved to limit future tax increases to 3.25 per cent, which means it has to cut about $6 million in spending over the next three years - $2 million from the 2013 budget alone.

"The bottom line for the purposes of this discussion is you don't have enough money," consultant Jerry Berry told councillors.

The rankings will now be sent to city staff to report back on implications for service, staffing and costs.

"We've identified a lot of priorities and we've done the first preliminary cut at ranking them, with the realization that we're only going to be able to move forward on a select few," said Mayor Dean Fortin.

The goal is to decide what needs to be done now, what can wait until next term and what can be put off for the forseeable future, he said

Three items that emerged as top priorities for councillors were: the need to stay focused on budget reductions, public transportation and undertaking a review of city services.

The latter review would identify which services the city can afford and what should be eliminated as new priorities emerge, Fortin said.

"That will be the challenge for the future - what do we stop doing?" Fortin said.

"And that is the next step, because ultimately, a $6-million reduction over three years means we have to start now."

One of four strategic planning sessions held to date, Monday's priority setting workshop was originally set to be held behind closed doors.

It was held in public after Coun. Lisa Helps asked why it needed to be discussed privately, and the motion to go in-camera failed for lack of a second.

Other initiatives that ranked high included a review of parking-business options, approval of the new Official Community Plan, undertaking public consultation on Crystal Pool options and updating the comprehensive housing strategy.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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