Chamber says city can do better
Survey says business wants 10 or 15 per cent slashed from budget

by Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Nov 28/97) - The cost of doing business and living in the city can and should be chopped, says the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce.

Gabrielle Decorby, chairman of the Chamber's municipal affairs committee, told council Tuesday night there was fat to be cut from the budget.

"The cost of living is the No. 1 concern of business considering moving people up here," said Decorby. "We would ask that council go back into the budget and look at ways costs can be cut."

Decorby directed council's attention to a fax survey the chamber had conducted of its members for input on the budget.

The most overwhelming consensus was reached in responses to a question that asked if businesses would want between 10 and 15 per cent cut from the city's budget -- 97 per cent of the 66 respondents said yes.

But Ald. Robert Slaven said specifying how much should be cut before considering the impact of the cut on services is poor planning.

As a GNWT employee, Slaven said one of his more frustrating experiences was dealing with budget demands based on the assumption that cuts would have little or no impact on program delivery.

"What (the GNWT) are saying is we need to do more with less, but in fact they're doing is less with less," said Slaven.

City administrator Doug Lagore indicated there is no fat to be cut from the city's budget. "Even if you cut one per cent there's going to be an impact on service levels," said Lagore.

Decorby was not convinced, and offered a few examples of ways tax dollars could be stretched -- reducing the amount of sand and gravel spread on roads, the amount of overtime paid city employees and the frequency of street sweeping.

Ald. Peggy Near, noting the time remaining to finalize the 1998 budget is growing short, offered a compromise.

Near asked Decorby if the chamber or its members might be willing to review the finalized version of the 1998 budget with a view to providing a detailed explanation of where costs could be cut.

Decorby agreed that likely could be done, but repeated an earlier point that costs could and should be trimmed as soon as possible.