Here are a few highlights from last night's budget meeting, which saw the approval of an operating budget representing a 2.97 per cent tax hike.
* The budget includes 17.68 new full-time equivalent (FTE) staff positions at a 2013 cost of $1.51 million. Gloria Kovach and Cam Guthrie both unsuccessfully moved to have some of the positions scrapped.
* Councillors approved Kovach's motion to create a $500,000 "efficiency line" in the 2013 budget requiring staff to find that amount in savings. Some took umbrage with this on Twitter, but I agree with Kovach's logic it's better to set a figure and hand it off to staff than try to find $10K here and $15K there.
* They supported a staff recommendation to halve the $260K downtown facade grant program, rejecting motions from Cam Guthrie to take all the money out and by Lise Burcher to put the $130K back in.
* Residential sidewalk plowing was put back in at a cost of $100,000
* A proposed exchange fee for wrong-size waste carts was scrapped at a cost of $75K
* A proposal by Guthrie to cancel implementation of the energy management plan -- to save $205K -- was defeated.
* Bob Bell tried to get $3.7M earmarked for Upper Wyndham properties -- as part of the Baker Street library redevelopment -- instead allocated to infrastructure projects. He failed.
* Councillors also balked at a proposal to use half of $200K set aside in 2013 for the purchase of "public art" to get started on construction of sidewalks on Woodlawn west of the Hanlon. Last week the city's engineer said that stretch of road is unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists.
* Staff will reallocate $150K in the 2013 capital budget to do preliminary engineering work on a changeroom facility at the new Eastview Community Park.
* After an in-camera meeting, councillors voted 10-3 to add $60,000 to the budget. Karen Farbridge said after the meeting she could not tell me what it was for as it related to a staff member.
* Councillors defeated a motion which would have halved the money allocated to the corporate IT strategy and saved $244,200.
* Jim Furfaro proposed implementing a "hiring freeze" during 2013, which would see retiring employees not replaced. Furfaro said over the next two years there are 39 employees who will become eligible for retirement, noting if they all left and were not replaced it could save $3.4 million.The motion was referred to a city committee for further examination.