City Hall scampering to meet budget deadline

-operating with $1B deficit

City Hall, which is currently operating with a deficit of over $1B, is scrambling to present its proposed budget for next year to the Ministry of Local Government.

Minister in the Ministry of Local Government Norman Whittaker has invited the Mayor and in his absence the Deputy Mayor, the Finance Committee Chairman, the Town Clerk and the acting Treasurer to present the 2013 budget on Thursday at the ministry, acting Town Clerk Carol Sooba announced yesterday, when the statutory meeting of the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) was called.

Chairman of the Finance Committee Junior Garrett informed the meeting that the council is currently in excess of $1B in deficit and the committee is presently looking at areas where cuts can be made to return balance to its finances.

He stated that although the due date for the presentation of the budget is approaching, it is hardly likely that the budget will be ready, taking into consideration the deficit and the need for cuts. In addition to this, Garrett pointed out that there is still the need for consultations with the heads of the various departments of the M&CC.

“Information is still forthcoming from the Treasurer’s Department… I still have to get a proper assessment of revenues. There is two staff working on the budget. I must say that the information should have been obtained long before but there was no assistance from the IT Department with the input of information,” Garrett said.

Chairing the council meeting yesterday was Deputy Mayor Patricia Chase-Green, who stated that while she was hopeful that the budget will be presented as requested by the Minister, it may not meet the deadline based on Garrett’s explanation.

The acting City Treasurer Ron McCalmon informed members of the council that his department is currently entering the information provided to them into the format required by the ministry. “We are still doing that, it is not completed. It still has to be compiled and put into a summary format as well,” he explained.

McCalmon added that he has advised some staff members that although today is a public holiday, they will be required to work in an effort to complete the task. Asked by Chase-Green if he will be able to complete the work, McCalmon indicated that the figures will have to be ready and that the information will have to subsequently be presented to the Finance Committee for verification before going to the ministry.

“If the Treasurer’s Department give me the day, it will be submitted. Then I will be in a better position to say. I can work tomorrow (today) and Wednesday to ensure that it is ready but it depends on the Treasurer’s Department,” Garrett interjected.

According to him, the budget for 2013 will have to be given “strong consideration.”

“We are going to have an IT Department… but can we afford this when the staff clearly states that they are not fully-occupied?” he inquired.

Garrett blamed the IT Department for problems in October as it related to the payment of salaries. He explained that the information which should have been processed for the Personnel Department was not completed and this breakdown affected the readiness of salaries. “The information was not processed by the IT Department so the payroll for salaries for October was affected. People could have been paid early,” he said.

Garrett further stated that there is a need for personnel to reclaim Value-Added Tax (VAT) owed to the City Council, noting that this is to the tune of “hundreds of millions.” He added that he had already provided reclamation forms but no further steps were ever taken since the council is unequipped with the relevant personnel.

“Is that fair to the council? To the workers? That they would be deprived of their salaries? Their NIS?” he asked, while urging his fellow councillors to prepare to make serious decisions for the year 2013.

Earlier on in the meeting, there was a motion moved by Councillor Gladstone George to have Colvern Venture act as City Engineer while Lloyd Alleyne is away on vacation leave. The motion was seconded by Councillor Gregory Fraser and 16 persons later voted in favour of it, naming Venture the acting City Engineer.

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