Moncton councillor calls downtown plaza unbudgeted expense

Plaza improvements questioned by Moncton councillor

Coun. Paul Pellerin is calling into question, costs surrounding Moncton's downtown centre.

At a special meeting last week, councillors passed a $4.3 million budget for a plaza to be built in front of the centre and money for the plaza will come out of the centre's $7.2 million contingency fund.  

But Pellerin said money for the contingency fund is not in place.

"This $7.2 million is unbudgeted."

Pellerin was not able to attend last week's meeting but said at Tuesday night's council meeting, "like most citizens I'm concerned about how that might impact future projects or our future tax rate."

- Moncton's downtown centre plaza to cost more than double original estimate 

- Moncton announces $7.2M in additions for downtown centre                                                    

When the contingency fund was first announced, then City Manager Jacques Dubé, said the city would be looking to both the provincial and federal government for help to pay for it.

But Isabelle LeBlanc, communications director with the city says neither levels of government have committed any money for the plaza.

A simple plaza was originally included in the cost of a $104 million downtown centre, but council consulted with the public in December of 2015 and decided to add more features like a seasonal skating rink, an oval with seating a gazebo and a park.

The city has maintained since the contingency fund was announced, that money for the plaza and the building is coming from different budgets, but Pellerin said it should all be lumped together.

"The downtown centre is $104 [million], the contingency fund is $7.2 million for a total of $111.2 million for the complete downtown centre including the plaza."

"So in essence, depending on how you look at it, you are over budget by $7.2 million."

Pellerin also expressed concern about the amount of money it will take to run the plaza each year. 

"We never explained to the public what the estimated operations cost is going to be for this plaza."

Concerns over structural deficit 

He said he's not at liberty to disclose the amount, as it was discussed during a private session.

"What I can tell you, based on what I see, it's a significant amount."

Pellerin is concerned the city is already operating with a structural deficit.

"In layman's terms, we got more money going out than coming in."

"And the municipalities act, as it stands today doesn't allow any municipality to borrow money for operations, so you either have to cut services, increase taxes or do a combination of both."

Both Mayor Dawn Arnold and Isabelle LeBlanc declined the CBC's request to do an interview.

But LeBlanc said they are trying to arrange a presentation about the downtown centre and plaza project for the public council meeting on May 1.

The downtown centre and the plaza are scheduled to open in September of 2018.​