Dinosaur rental, snow clearing and tree planting: What's in Moncton's budget

Moncton's proposed budget is set to be approved by city council on Thursday with several changes requested by councillors. (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)
Moncton's proposed budget is set to be approved by city council on Thursday with several changes requested by councillors. (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)

A dinosaur-skeleton rental, more staff for snow clearing, and potentially new equipment to clear goose droppings.

These are some of the items in, or proposed for, Moncton's 2023 budget set for approval Thursday.

Staff and councillors have been going through the 544-page budget that lays out plans to spend $188 million on operations and $63 million on capital projects. The budget includes a 10.3 cent cut in the tax rate.

However, the figures may change Thursday. Councillors have proposed several changes.

The single largest change would be a request by Coun. Daniel Bourgeois to include $25 million in the capital budget over five years to create a park in an area of the city called the Vision Lands, between Wheeler Boulevard and the Trans-Canada Highway.

City of Moncton
City of Moncton

Bourgeois said the city could use the money to buy undeveloped, privately owned land around the North Branch of Halls Creek.

New spending this year includes about $1,1 million to implement public safety measures such as more bylaw enforcement officers, a cost that doesn't include $4.3 million more for police.

The budget proposes spending $520,368 more for snow clearing. That follows a review prompted by conditions last winter.

Shane Magee/CBC
Shane Magee/CBC

Alexandre Binette, the general manager of operations services, said the department is increasing staffing by 12 positions and will test new equipment to clear sidewalks and other measures.

Previously, the city would typically start clearing sidewalks after roads. Binette said they'll aim to start clearing sidewalks sooner.

"To me, this is a radical change from what we've been doing since 2008," Bourgeois said of the new snow-clearing plans.

Workforce growth

The city's workforce is projected to grow from 699 full-time-equivalent positions to 722½ next year.

Several new positions are being added to the city's planning department to keep up with demand for building inspections and reviewing development plans. The total value of building permits was a record-setting $309.6 million as of the end of October.

"We're seeing unprecedented growth," said Elaine Aucoin, the city's general manager of sustainable growth and development services.

Other positions are being added for the operations department, part of the plan to improve snow clearing.

Shane Magee/CBC
Shane Magee/CBC

Binette said in an interview that 10 causal positions used in summer months to work in parks will be converted to permanent positions to assist in the winter.

Binette said some employees will be on a night shift through the winter, so they can focus on clearing sidewalks, laying down more salt or sand, and clearing away snow that builds up.

Previously, the city largely had daytime shifts and carried out the overnight work using overtime.

Other proposed spending includes consultants to study whether the city needs a new library branch in the city's north end and an aquatics facility.

Marc Landry, the city manager, said they hope to have the aquatics centre study complete in time for deliberations on the 2024 budget and to present the findings to other levels of government to talk about possible funding.

The city plans to spend $21,000 to rent an Albertosaurus sarcophagus skeleton to display as part of a Resurgo Place museum 50th anniversary celebration exhibit next fall. The dinosaur skeleton will be borrowed from a museum in Thunder Bay, Ont.

"We're trying to bring back the same dinosaur that everybody's been asking to see again since we had it in 1985," Sophie Cormier, Moncton's director of culture and heritage, said in an interview.

"So part of our celebration exhibition will have some callbacks to most popular exhibition first artifacts."

Tree planting

The city's tree-planting budget may also increase. Councillors will vote Thursday whether to add $41,000 at the request of Coun. Charles Leger. The budget has been $50,000 since 1990 to plant trees in neighbourhoods constructed prior to 2015.

Dan Hicks, the city's director of parks, said the amount hasn't kept up with price increases over the last three decades. While it once covered the costs of planting up to 300 trees, he said it now covers only about 80 trees.

Councillors will also vote on whether to buy a piece of equipment called a pickup broom for $47,142. Hicks said it can be used to clean up sand after the winter and to pick up goose droppings.

Canada geese have been a persistent issue in parts of the city, including around Jones Lake and Centennial Park, where efforts to keep them away have had limited success.

Roads biggest item in capital budget

The city's capital budget includes more than $63 million in spending on streets, water and sewer lines, and buildings.

That amount doesn't include the proposed spending for the Vision Lands park proposed by Bourgeois.

The city hopes to get funding from other levels of government, reducing the city portion of the $63 million to $16.7 million.

The single largest portion of capital spending is $34 million for roads. The city hopes to see Elmwood Drive and Mapleton Road north of the Trans-Canada Highway widened next year.

The capital budget includes money to start electrification of the Codiac Transpo bus fleet, work that would include charging stations and upgrades to the Millennium Boulevard garage.