Mayor worried increasing gas prices will force council to cut back
By Craig Westcott/May 26, 2022
The latest eye-popping fuel bills had members of Bay Roberts council expressing concern about the budget during their regular public meeting last Tuesday.
The price hikes couldn’t be missed as councillors waded through a five-page list of bills incurred during the running of Town business in the past month.
“All the fuel (bills),” said councillor Perry Bowering, “that’s all for just one company, is that correct?”
Chief administrative officer Nigel Black said that was right.
Bowering asked if the Town tries to share the Town’s business of fueling its vehicles among the various gas retailers in Bay Roberts.
“We do yes,” said Black. “Certain departments go to one store versus another.”
Mayor Walter Yetman noted that an earlier bill for fuel had come from a different supplier.
Bowering said he knows the Town needs the fuel, but it seemed like a lot of fuel to be coming from one supplier.
Black said he can remind the directors to share the business around.
“It’s not the fair to the rest of them, who are still taxpayers here, correct?” said Bowering.
That discussion then led to a larger one about the cost of fuel generally and the implications of the inflationary run on prices for the Town’s finances.
“We’ve got to keep in mind that our budget was set back in December and all these huge increases have come since then,” said Mayor Yetman. “Something’s got to give after a while. We’re going to be dealing with more (increasing) fuel costs this year, project costs are going to go up, our materials for our projects are going to go up, everything has gone up and it’s coming out of our budget that we’ve already had to balance. It’s going to be digging into that. At some point, if we need to raise more money to pay for all this, we’ve got to keep that in mind, or we’ve got to start advocating through MNL (Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador) or our member to get the provincial government to relax taxes or something, because this is a huge setback for people who have already set their budgets for this year.”
Bowering allowed the price of gas has nearly doubled since the fall municipal election.
Deputy Mayor Geoff Seymour pointed out the Town cannot change its tax structure to increase taxes now that it has been set for the year. So he suggested that at the midpoint of the fiscal year, which is the end of June, senior staff should review their departments’ budgets and make adjustments to their spending, if necessary.
“We’re going to see ourselves in a deficit if we keep going with the work we have planned,” interjected Yetman. “So, we have to make adjustments.”
Seymour pressed on adding that once the staff conduct a mid-year review, council may then have to put a plan in place to deal with the shortfall between the Town’s revenues and its spending.
“Exactly,” the mayor agreed, arguing some projects may even have to be delayed for a year.
With that, council resumed examining each of its other charges for the month until it came to a bill for furnace and diesel oil.
“Again, that’s a pretty big bill there from another supplier,” Yetman observed. “It all impacts our bottom line.”