Collingwood Council has voted 6-2 to approve the 2018 Budget. The tax increase works out to just under 19 dollars a year to the average ratepayer.
In a recorded vote, Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson and Councillors Mike Edwards, Cam Ecclestone, Kathy Jeffery, Deb Doherty and Bob Madigan voted in favour to approve the 2018 budget.
Mayor Sandra Cooper and Councillor Kevin Lloyd voted against the motion to approve the 2018 budget.
Councillor Tim Fryer was absent.
Mayor Sandra Cooper credited staff with hard work and said the process was supported by accountability and respect for the taxpayers’ hard earned dollars. However, she did not support the budget, voting against the motion to accept it.
“This year’s budget process in my opinion included consideration of increased efficiencies guided by the committee based strategic plan. Council references affordability to work and live in our great community. I give staff credit as they worked hard to bring a final budget forward. And it was a pleasure this year to work through that budget and I know not only through yourself Marjory (Town of Collingwood Treasurer Marjory Leonard) but department heads down to the roots, I appreciate that very much. The process was supported by accountability and I believe respect for the taxpayers hard earned dollars. However, again, there is an upcoming expense which as I understand it could cost one million dollars not being considered in this budget. This will be a substantial increase due to the upcoming Judicial Inquiry which has not been accounted for at all in 2018. For that I cannot support the budget as it stands.
2018 Budget Discussion Around The Council Table
Councillor Cam Ecclestone said that he appreciated receiving the thoughts and opinions from the public during the budget process, saying that he thinks it is a very solid budget.
Councillor Mike Edwards said he agreed somewhat that the costs for the Judicial Inquiry were missing from the budget and that they were going to come up eventually.
“I will support the budget. I think a lot of hard work has gone in to this point by department heads and I don’t particularly want to hold it up at this time. I think it’s a fair budget. It has addressed some unmet needs that actually were needs, and not once, and I think they got weeded out very well by the department heads, so for that reason, yes I have great concerns as I mentioned before about what a Judicial Inquiry is going to cost but at this point in time it won’t stop me from voting in favour of this budget.”
Councillor Kathy Jeffery supported the budget and said she wants the public to be clear that it is not unusual for council to have legal fees within the year that aren’t budgeted that come up.
“An example would be the wind turbines, we didn’t know that was coming. Even with the previous year with probably, maybe a million dollars in legal fees we were still able to reduce our debt by $9 million or more. We have the resilience to absorb these kinds of things and it was deemed by the majority of council to be critical moving forward, so I am quite confident that I can approve this budget. I’m pretty sure our Treasurer would be beating us over the heads with something if there was something different we should be doing and so I’m very pleased to be able to, on behalf of the residents and taxpayers to vote in favour of this budget.”
Councillor Deb Doherty echoed Councillor Jeffery’s comments.
“First of all thanks to staff for preparing a very responsible budget for 2018, but also to say that in my view this decision to undertake a Judicial Inquiry is a necessary investment in our future governance for this municipality. For that, I anticipate that whatever costs will be incurred this year will be covered by our usual legal fees and in 2019 we will be able to address what we anticipate to be in going forward into 2019 what the potential costs might be and we can address it at that time, but I have no concern approving this budget.”
Councillor Kevin Lloyd did not support the budget and voted against the motion to accept it.
“I have two concerns. Number one is the advent of this council passing a requirement for a Judicial Inquiry which could cost between minimum one million, possibly up to three million dollars, without any provision in this budget to offset some of that known cost that’s going to come up in 2019 and possibly 2020. I think we should have been looking at, at least bearing some of the brunt of that expenditure in this budget.
Secondly, I’ve been asking along with other people the last few years where we were promised by the previous administrator that we would have a $750,000 dollar savings per year, possibly more, by dissecting Collus PowerStream. I haven’t seen that. I’ve never seen it. As a matter of fact all I’ve seen is an increase in operating costs and in particular, just to point out one, is our I.T. this year, the salaries and benefits are going well over $300,000 where a couple of years ago they were costing us $145,000.
Based on those two issues I can’t support this budget, I’m sorry.”
Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson supported the budget. He asked Treasurer Marjorie Leonard to respond to Councillor Lloyd’s query about the CPUSB (Collingwood Public Utilities Service Board) savings, asking her to speak to the savings the Town did achieve in the year that it was brought in.
Leonard said that in 2016, the year that the Town of Collingwood brought the full budgeting process for the Water Department in-house, the Town was able to achieve approximately $750,000 dollars in terms of the budget.
“We budgeted that this savings is in relation to the way that Collus , the CPUSB had prepared their 2016 budget and what we, the Town used as a prepared 2016 budget. Those are the only two sets of numbers that we could prepare apples to apples. We approve that there were $750,000 in savings that year and in actual fact the budgeted transfer to reserve was $1.6 million and the actual transfer to the water reserve was $2.1 million.
At this point for 2017 we have not completed our year-end reconciliations. The only thing that I can tell you and the accuracy of this statement is at this point questionable because as I say we have not prepared the final reconciliations, the expenditures for the Water Department so far have only increased by 30 thousand dollars over the actual amounts that were there for 2016.
I don’t think that we have totally eroded the full amount of the $750,000. We may still be carrying forward a minimum of $720,000 of that savings.
Councillor Bob Madigan asked Treasurer Marjorie Leonard if Council should be concerned about not budgeting for the Judicial Inquiry in the 2018 budget.
Leonard said at this point in time nobody has an idea as to how much the inquiry will cost.
“At this point in time we have no idea how much this inquiry is going to cost us or in fact how long it will take. We do have a working capital reserve fund that does provide contingency funding for items like temporary cash shortfalls, urgent unforeseen expenditures, unpredictable one-time expenditures and in general business continuity in the event of a disaster or long term interruption of operations. We do maintain that fund at 5 percent of our own source revenues and currently it has $2.58 million in it. If we anticipated the cost of the Judicial Inquiry as $2.5 million I would have in the budget prepared it with bringing in the $2.5 million revenue as a transfer from reserve fund and showing legal costs at $2.5 million. There would have been no net change to the bottom line. If the full $2.5 million reserve is depleted staff would never recommend recouping those funds in one year. We would rather do that in an orderly fashion over several years to keep the costs to the taxpayers at a manageable level.
CLICK HERE to view the Budget Section of the Town of Collingwood web site
PRESS RELEASE FROM TOWN OF COLLINGWOOD
Collingwood, ON [13 March 2018] – With the approval of the 2018 Budget at Monday’s Council meeting, the Town of Collingwood residents will see a minimal tax increase of approximately $1.55 per month.
Council continues the trend of addressing increasing demands with limiting financial expenditures and not taking on any unnecessary debt. With the passing of the 2018 budget Council paid down another $150,000 of internal debt, adding to the total debt paid down over this term. By 2022, the Town’s debt level is forecasted to be at approximately $17.5 M, if the current commitment continues.
“Staff worked hard to bring forward the 2018 budget, through a process which included consideration of increased efficiencies and which was guided by the Community Based Strategic Plan goals, and which provided accountability for taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars,” said Mayor Cooper. “It was a pleasure to work through the process this year, and I appreciate that very much.”
The 2018 budget is comprised of $55.8 million in operating expenses, which accounts for the costs required to provide services (such as transit, recreation, and roads) as well as staffing and administrative costs.
The total capital expenditures approved are $27.0 million. Capital expenditures relate to projects and expenses where the benefits can be seen over many years, including facilities, vehicles, and parks. The majority of the Town’s capital expenditures are considered non-tax supported, and consist of capital projects that are financed through user rates (such as water and wastewater), user fees (such as building permits) or fines (such as parking).
Roads and public transit have significant capital expenditures, including improvements at the intersection of Third and High Streets ($3M) vehicle replacements ($1M) and asphalt resurfacing ($500,000).
Parks, Recreation and Culture’s capital projects in 2018 include playground replacements ($600,000), Heritage Park improvements ($580,000), Central Park baseball lights ($200,000) and phase two of the Promenade Dock ($150,000).
General Government consists of municipal facilities and administrative support. Capital projects for 2018 include strategic land acquisition ($350,000), Town Hall refurbishment ($200,000) a backup generator ($200,000) and IT support ($172,500).
Much of the funding for these projects comes from reserve funds, grants from the federal or provincial government or development charges. Only 1.6% or $429,950 is being taken from 2018 taxes.
Included in the 2018 Budget is a Capital Levy of $224,000 to be set aside to fund the Capital Asset Management Plan, which catalogs the municipality’s capital assets, and estimates the amount of money that should be set aside to fund their repair and ultimate replacement. The Capital Levy was introduced in the 2016 Budget as a means to fund capital purchases and ongoing costs without the need to incur additional debt.
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