Updated Operating Budget Will See Police, Fire Cuts Reversed

Posted on Tuesday, March 13, 2018 20:57 PM

Controversial cuts made to the city's fire and police departments are one step closer to being reversed.

Saint John's finance committee approving an updated operating budget tonight in light of the 'new deal' with the province.

The city will get up to $22.8 million over three years to help eliminate its structural deficit, including $3.5 million this year.

Mayor Don Darling says the money allows for some breathing room — but doesn't eliminate the city's financial challenges.

"What is does in the short-term while we're working on the long-term solutions is it allows us just to stay relatively whole and not make cuts to those essential front-line services and I think that's appropriate," says Darling.

As part of the deal, a working committee made up of city and provincial staff will monitor the initiatives and report back to council by January 2019.

Coun. David Merrithew, who chairs the city's finance committee, warns if there are no long-term solutions, the city will be faced with even bigger problems.

"After the third year [in 2021], we'll have a structural deficit of $12.5 million," says Merrithew. "I'm going to tell you right now, you will not find it in one year's budget, you can't. It's too much to cut in one year.

Merrithew has previously said the new deal comes with "tremendous" risk and "scares the bejesus" out of him.

Common Council must still approve the updated budget.