Overtime and lawyers exact a price on city budget


city_scope_logo-cmykIn his six-month budget monitoring report to city council this past Monday (Sept. 18), the city’s director of financing, David Aristone, is projecting an operating deficit of $25,000 this year.
Aristone cautions, however, there are three areas in which “the city may have some exposure for over expenditures but the magnitude is not known.”
In other words, that operating deficit could balloon rather significantly.
The three areas of concern?
Let’s start with 2017 salary negotiations which would include bargaining with city firefighters. They are seeking a 24-hour shift structure and unless an amicable agreement can be reached, this one will end up in arbitration. Continue reading

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Time to come clean: are water bill payments keeping Ascent afloat?


city_scope_logo-cmykA troubling state of affairs when your water bill payment appears to be the only thing keeping Ascent/St. Thomas Energy afloat.

Of much greater concern is the lack of transparency at city hall and the lack of due diligence on the part of city council.

Let’s start in the finance department where we appear to caught director of finance David Aristone in an awkward moment.

Exactly one year ago, when council dealt with the 2014 consolidated financial statements, that document revealed Ascent Group – 100 per cent owners of St. Thomas Energy – rang up an operating loss of $6.8 million. That compared with a $1.4 million profit in 2013. Continue reading

Social housing director not at home at city hall


city_scope_logo-cmykShe beat out 11 other candidates for the job of director at Ontario Works back in February of 2011, so where is Barbara Arbuckle today?
The question was prompted by an email sent our way.
“She was there for a couple of months then disappeared,” writes a curious reader. “It seems to be quite a mystery in the department and out as to whatever happened with her.”
Yes, it is a mystery as her name still appears online in the city’s staff directory. However when you call her phone extension the line goes dead.
A call to city manager Wendell Graves on Friday resulted in a guarded response. Continue reading

A hoped-for sane policy for community funding grants


city_scope_logo-cmykWith no sane or sensible guidelines currently in place, council is about to grapple with how it dishes out funding to community groups.

At Monday’s meeting of council, members will receive a report entitled Policy on Granting Funds to Community Organizations, a framework that should have been in place years ago.

No better example of the helter-skelter approach utilized in the past than the dithering this summer over whether St. Thomas Cemetery Company should be granted $59,000 in funding.

A debate that appears more grounded in personality conflict than sound financial sense. Continue reading