Budget Deliberations 2009
After two days of intensive perusal and, sometimes lively discussions, the Saugeen Shores2009 Budget has gone back to the drawing board.
It was evident at the end of the second day, that Council appears to be concerned with the state of the economy, even though Saugeen Shores seems to be seeing less of the affect than many other places.
With costs for rising for all commodities and services, it was expected that there would be increased in operating town services.
In 2008, the total Operating Expenses (excluding water & sewer) budget was $13,372.384 and the actual came in at $13,407,028. This year, the 2009 budget for Operating Expenses is $14,192.031 for an increase of 6.1%
Total Operating Revenues in 2008 were, budgeted $7,281,300 and actual was $7,964,173. This year’s budget for Operating Revenues is $7,550,966. For a difference of $269,666.
If the budget were accepted, as is, the Tax Levy needed would be $8,434,666, for an increase of 9.7% Therefore, in an attempt to keep the tax levy increase to 3%, for a total levy of $7,932,137, there will have to be cut-backs of an additional $502,530 to meet the levy target. Therefore, back to the drawing board.
Two of the big-ticket items that were discussed at length were the proposed new swimming pool facility and regional accessible playground, both of which are still up in the air.
The pool, which has been broken into phases, is now about to head into phase 3A at a cost of $65,000 (which will also include the next phase 3B).
Vice Deputy Mayor, Doug Gowanlock, said that he is not willing to spend any more money just to keep this issue front and center with the public. “I don’t see the value to committing to spend another $65,000. I don’t know anybody, other than staff, who really wants this pool. Not one person has come up to me and said they want it.”
Councillor Victoria Serda, who is in favour of the pool, felt that Phase 3 should go ahead. “If we don’t follow through, we will miss out on funding that is available through the Federal Budget,” she said. “but there is only a window of 18 months for it.”
Councillor Luke Charbonneau, said that we shouldn’t panic and be pushed by government timelines into these projects (pool & playground). “We need to be methodical and make sure that this doesn’t get out of control. We should not be slaves to government whims.”
12/02/2009 05:57 PM
The Regional Accessible Playground,
which is expected to cost $200,000 is also a possible grant recipient.
“There is a lot of excitement around this right now,” said Serda. “We
might be able to get some funding and we could set up the fundraising
structure to determine key sponsorships.”
Councillors Shildroth and Charbonnneau expressed the same concerns. “We should look at the entire budget before deciding on a playground.”
Gowanlock also said he thought council should first finish the budget. “There are some outstanding cost issues that need to be finalized like the medical centre and the library.” Councillor Thead Seaman agreed. “We have to know what the bottom line is before we go forward and we have to know what the public’s appetite is.”
According to Ron Brown, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), “We tried to come in at 3% which is almost impossible for most departments. There is no fat in the operating or capital budgets. A large increase was the $183,188 for medical and doctor recruitment which resulted in a $120,000 debenture payment that impacted us.”
“It’s been the same over the 30 years that I’ve done this,” he added. “To try to provide the same services we have options. Do we go back and try to cut deeper which will result in a decrease in those services? We have some reserves that can be used to decrease certain areas. We can use part of the reserves but then there may be capital projects that come up. Also there are things like police, fire, Conservation Authority that will not go down next year we need direction from Council.”
Councillor Luke Charbonneau said that, “This is a budget year we don’t want to see taxes raised above inflation. It’s also a time you don’t want to see capital projects and infrastructure projects reduced. I suggest we call off all transfers to reserves, finance more capital projects and put off the police building addition .”
Councillor Fred Shildroth said that he felt there were several items or areas that could be cut back. “There is dredging at $20,000, computers for council at $15,000, the Accessible Playground, Cancel Phases for the pool – some of them may be small but everything counts.”
Deputy Mayor Doug Freiburger also expressed that he didn’t want to see some transfers into reserve funds. “Also, I am not stuck on the 3%,” he said. “We all have to take some responsibility including the ratepayers jfor the things like the infrastructure that is there. We can move dollars around. I’ve just begun and have over $230,000 that we can move.”
At the end of the day, it was agreed that the budget would be re-visited by all Department heads and be brought back in March for further consideration.