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Letter: New West budget criticism Is misleading

Quarterly capital report blasted for “disturbing lack of transparency” actually represents full public disclosure of budget details.
A letter accusing New West council of lack of transparency is misleading, Coun. Mary Trentadue says. | Record file


Campaign time in New Westminster has arrived even though it’s still four months until the election. Unfortunately, the recent letter to the editor in The Record “$13.8m New West budget increase is "shocking” contains inaccuracies and misrepresentations.

he misleading letter referred to a quarterly capital budget report provided to City Council in a public report on June 13th. The report outlined some adjustments to the City’s 5-year $450 million Capital Plan.

The budget was updated to reflect $4.8 million in work that was not completed in the 2021 fiscal year, including the last stages of the Boundary Pump Station upgrade and sections of the ongoing Sewer Separation program in Sapperton. These projects were delayed because of well-known supply chain issues and labour scheduling challenges. Since the City budgeted for the work in 2021, but completed it in 2022, that change must be reflected in the Capital Plan. Similar projects slated to start in 2023 are being moved to the 2022 plan so staff can get an early start and avoid similar supply chain concerns. This is not new spending because it was already in the budget.

There are also some new projects that received senior government funding which need to be included in the revised Capital Plan, such as the $50,000 the City received from Trees Canada to accelerate our forest restoration in Queens Park.  

The plan adjustment did add $5 million to the projected cost for the təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic and Community Centre, and included an additional $3 million in contingency costs. The cost increase is mostly related to challenging soil conditions and the need for extra geotechnical engineering over what was reasonably anticipated. This represents about a 7% increase in the $106.6 million overall budget for what is the largest investment the City has ever made in sports and recreation. Some of this increase may be offset by savings further into the project.

These quarterly updates keep both Council and the public informed about changes in costs, due to delay or inflationary pressures in this challenging construction market. For a candidate to decry a “disturbing lack of transparency” when the very report they are describing is an example of public disclosure of budgeting details, including a 10-page itemized spreadsheet with every change detailed, seems disingenuous, and headline-grabbing. I hope the public questions these inflammatory responses.

Welcome to campaign season - I guess.  

Mary Trentadue

City councillor, New Westminster

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