By COLLIN GALLANT on September 6, 2021.
Jim Turner says now that council has brought in substantial cuts to city spending, he would like to serve one more term to see it and economic development efforts to fruition.
“After eight years, and for the last two years, we’ve finally made an effort to get our spending under control at the city,” said Turner.
“When we first started, all they ever talked about was how could we raise more revenue and there was never much talk about saving money and getting better value for our taxpayers. I would like one more term to see that through.”
Turner, a businessman and former general manager of the Medicine Hat and District Food Bank, as first elected to council in 2013 and has served two terms. He currently sits on the energy and infrastructure committee and the public services committee.
He’s encouraged about current economic attraction and the development strategy, and has long argued for a shovel-ready industrial park that the city is currently developing in the northwest.
“Personally I wouldn’t like to see the city in the land business at all, but we’re in it,” he said.
Turner drew some criticism as one of three councillors who voted against a local mask bylaw, citing a need to get to “herd immunity” to deal with increasing cases last December, before vaccines were available in Canada.
“My position hasn’t changed,” he told the News this summer.
He is focusing on economic issues in campaigning.
“Four years ago, we were told (by administrators) that we’d cut to the bone,” said Turner. “Well, we found $14 million in savings this year.”
In late 2020, council unanimously endorsed a budget plan calling for a near 20 per cent cut in the municipal operations budget to keep taxation at 2019 levels while using less city reserve cash to balance the budget.
Managing that shortfall between operating revenue and expenses – caused by the end of gas division dividends five years ago – is generally described as the “Financially Fit” initiative.
About $10 million more in spending cuts will be needed in 2022 should council want to erase the structural deficit without raising taxes.
Administrators have not released any formal information about current effects of spending decisions, but have said about 75 positions were eliminated and officials are now determining the future of three recreation facilities that did not reopen when pandemic health protocols were lifted.