Majority of council opposes agency's "disturbing use" of surplus
The majority of Berwick town council members opted to send Valley Waste Resource Management a message by choosing not to approve the agency’s 2014/15 budget.
As one of the nine partners that fund the organization that provides waste and recycling collection services for town and rural residents in Kings and Annapolis Counties, Berwick council was requested to formally adopt the budget, which calls for an increase in funding of 11.26 percent from the partners and a reduction in services, including fall waste and leaf pick up.
At their June 10 meeting, councilors heard and heeded the recommendation of finance director Greg Towne that they not ratify the budget document.
Primary issues of concern for Towne included VWRM’s “disturbing use” of the anticipated 2013/14 $87,000 surplus to be withheld from the partners in the upcoming year.
“It flies in the face of how Valley Waste surpluses have been treated in the past and will likely set a precedent” in future budget discussions, pointed out Towne.
Towne also questioned the timing of the identification of the surplus and the fact it was not included in information reviewed by a sub committee tasked with limiting the budget increase to 9.5 percent.
He also admitted he was “personally not satisfied there was no attempt to mitigate (the budget increase). It’s been a battle and a struggle.”
Councilor Preston Illsley agreed with Towne, adding “Valley Waste needs to be brought to a state of fiscal responsibility.”
Deputy Mayor Jane Bustin, who represents Berwick on the VWRM board cast the only vote in support of the budget. She admitted to “being trapped in a hard place,” as she voted in favour of the document at Valley Waste’s May 21 board meeting.
Towne acknowledged Bustin’s predicament, but asked her “whose interests are you serving then? The taxpayers of Berwick or Valley Waste's?”
Valley Waste’s budget must be approved by 50 percent of the partners, to include the counties, in order to be ratified.