A Layman's Look at the Quarterly Report

Robert Thomas

Usually the way the quarterly reports are displayed in the media is in a long and technical form of facts and figures which many readers often find confusing, as well as, let's face it, boring.

To alleviate the usual yawns this time around we thought we would write about some of the interesting things which caught Council member's eyes and what they asked about the City's spending and operations.

It should be noted that one reason we elect people to Council is to help scrutinize the books and keep tabs on the City's operations.

Councillor Scott McMann

Retired banker, Councillor Scott McMann, showed his acumen when it comes to a balance sheet and budgeting when he asked a question about spending in the first quarter. 

Coun McMann asked a question on why spending in the first quarter was up $3.6 million from this time last year.

Finance Director Brian Acker replied "the allocation of funds of municipal tax revenue went in earlier this year than other years. It's just timing."

Coun McMann also asked about dropping attendance at arenas.

"The attendance at various events is down by 20 percent, any comments?" he asked.

Parks and Recreation director Ted Schaeffer replied that attendance at rinks fluctuates year to year.

"It could be a major event which typically drives up the numbers" Schaeffer said.

Councillor Crystal Froese

Councillor Crystal Froese asked about an Engineering Department report into the pending demolition of the Coteau Street East Bridge, that goes over the railway tracks.

Councillor Froese wanted to know why the bridge could not be turned into a walking bridge, given the number of trails in the area.

City Engineer Josh Mickelborough replied the bridge was severely deteriorated and not sound enough for the heavy loading of a walking bridge.

"The structure of it is not so great and it is not a good candidate to turn into a walking bridge," Mickelborough stated, later adding "the assessment report is stating the girders are extremely compromised."

Councillor Froese also wanted to know the reason why building permits were down.

Planning Department Director Michelle Sanson replied it was due to a drop in commercial construction from last year as well as residential construction. which had seen a reduction.

Councillor Chris Warren

Councillor Chris Warren noted the $4 million in roadway rehabilitation planned this year and wondered what roads would be due for upgrades. He also asked whether a communication strategy was planned to alert those affected by the coming work.

Mickelborough replied, saying that, this year, the City planned to launch a communication strategy with a tentative schedule once confirmation of the work was received.

Coun Warren asked why the report on the new waterline out to the Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Plant showed a red flag, indicating the project's schedule was in trouble of not being met.

Mickelborough replied the red flag was in place because the project had been on the books for seven or eight years and challenges being experienced during construction were manageable.

He said he would not characterize any of the challenges experienced as "jeopardizing the schedule of the project." 

Councillor Brian Swanson

Councillor Brian Swanson turned up the heat on the Fire Department when he asked about the departmental statistics.

Coun Swanson wanted to know the disposition of four half tons purchased when the move was made to make each platoon have a deputy chief. The move was defeated in less than half a day when the City withdrew its application at a schedule two day Labour Relations Board hearing. 

Fire Chief Rod Montgomery stated the units had been reassigned to replace the Blazer and Impala sedan. Additionally, one new half ton was used to replace another truck (Unit 10 from the 1980's) within the fire department's fleet which was very old but saw a lot of use.

The growing number of property owners with tax arrears as a harbinger of things to come had Coun Swanson making a statement.

"Tax arrears in Moose Jaw have increased 39 percent in two years. To me that is one of the canaries in the coal mine," he stated.

In the report, it was stated that property tax liens had risen from $604,023 on March 31, 2016 to $745,318 in March 31, 2017 to finally $800,004 on March 31, 2018.

Arrears payment plans have risen from $971,349 in 2016 to $1,020,333 in 2017 and $1,395,050 in 2018.

It all adds up to growing total property arrears of $1,575,372 in 2016 to $1,765,651 in 2017 to $2,195,054 in 2018.

Councillor Don Mitchell


Councillor Don Mitchell was interested in the Transit System and the shift from passes to cash fares.

The effects of the $1.25 fare instituted to increase bus ridership was discussed.

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