'Whittling away' at the budget

March 5, 2015

Town Council

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It appears that Kincardine Town Council is facing some tough decisions for 2015.

On the overall operating budget of $23Million, the reduction in provincial grants, DGR funding and Bruce Telecom dividends, amounts to $1.22 million that represents 5.3%

In January, the proposed tax rate saw an increase of 8.55 per cent after which Council directed staff to further try and identify additional savings through the operating budget.

On Monday, March 2nd, a draft budget was brought foward with a 9.0 per cent tax rate increase that would equate to $117 for the average household.  While it seemed to be going in the wrong direction, Council was told that since the first budget, staff had learned that premiums for extended health care and dental benefits  and WSIB rates for staff were all being increased.

The WSIB rates are going up a whopping 29 per cent  due to mandatory expanded coverage for firefighters.  The health premiums are an added $32,500 while the dental and WSIB rates result in an additional $64,500.

Staff reviewed the wages and benefits and was able to absorb $40,000 of the increase resulting in a tax rate impact of an additional 0.25%.

In addition, demolition costs of $20,000 for the house located at the airport had also been included in operations after Council approved its demolition for an additional tax a increase of 0.2%.

Staff came back to Council on March 2nd, with possible additional savings of $158,000 that if all 15  recommendations had all been approved would only result in a savings of 1.61% on the tax rate.

Among the recommendations, were items such as eliminating ICSP funding for Team Kincardine in the amount of $12,000 and the Environmental Action Group for $2,000; reducing hours at the Underwood Office, closing the Ward 3 Landfill; reducing firefighters uniform purchases for $2,000; increasing special events fees to increasing burial permits, summer day camp rates and ice fees.

Every item for reduction/elimination, resulted in lengthy debate and discussion.

"This list was created at the direction of Council," said CAO Murray Clarke, "and it represents a major struggle.  It was a struggle to arrive at any items for reduction or elimination.  We had a big debate on whether or not staff should even had made recommendations. Now, we are beginning to move into services and programs." 

"Well, other than a few increases in fees, I think this entire list is an effort in futility," said Councilor Mike Leggett.  "There really isn't much left to cut. We're getting down to counting pencils and paper clips. Do we really want to cut out $2,000 here and $4,000 there.  Bring the tax rate up for a vote and let's get on with it.  There is nothing left.  We have cut the budget for the last five years and there's nothing left here.  We are 'nicking this budget until it bleeds to death'."

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Changes made (and not made) were:

Team Kincardine - ICSP funding eliminated ($12,000)
Environmental Action Group - funding reduced ($1,700)
Ward 3 Landfill - remains ($8,000)
Underwood Office - remains the same ($12,000)Physician Recruitment - remains the same ($60,000)
Lottery Licence Fees - no increase
Burial Permits - averaged to $20 (formerly $10-$30)
Special Events Fees - no change
Advertising - print remains the same ($8,000)
Uniforms ($2,000), Conferences/training ($3,000)Mysis Water Rescue boat ($10,850) ... all remain

Summer Day Camp - rates to increase to a flat $130/wk
Ice Fees - increase 3%

Operating expenses were reduced by $362,000 from the prior year.

At the end of the day, the tax rate was reduced to 7.08% however, the 'blended rate' with the County's and Board of Education is yet to be finalized.

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Thursday, March 05, 2015