Jeff Green | Dec 06, 2007
Feature Article - December 6, 2007 Back toHome Feature Article - December 6, 2007 First draft of county budget envisions 3% cut to municipal requisition By Jeff Green
The Frontenac County budget is a bit like an iceberg in a fog. The amount of money that county ratepayers contribute is the only part that shows, but even that can be hard to see.
The county will spend over $35 million in 2008, but only about $8.21 million, or 23.7%, will come from county taxpayers, according to a preliminary draft budget that was presented to a special meeting of county council last week.
And of the $8.21 million the county will collect, about $3.5 million will immediately be transferred to the City of Kingston, which administers Ontario Works, Family Benefit supports, Child Care and Social Housing programs for the county.
The two major programs that the county itself runs, the Frontenac Land Ambulance Service and the Fairmount Home for the Aged, both have budgets in the $10 million range. The draft land ambulance budget for 2008 is $10,891,124, and the Fairmount Home budget is $9,389,637, but those budgets are heavily subsidized by other levels of government, and in Fairmount's case, by resident fees as well.
For 2008, it is projected that the county levy for the Fairmount Home operating budget will amount to $721,984, a 10% decrease from 2007. The county will also pay an additional $335,295 towards a 20-year debenture on an expansion of the home that was completed three years ago. The county share of ambulance costs is pegged at $1.25 million next year, a 3.3% increase over 2007.
The purpose of receiving the draft budget last week was to give the Frontenac County mayors a chance to look over the figures, receive clarification, and prepare to debate the budget in earnest in early January. Meetings have been set for January 9 and 16, when some of the numbers in the budget will have been firmed up, to debate the budget in earnest.
“I won't have much to say today,” said Frontenac Islands Mayor, and incoming county warden, Jim Vanden Hoek as the session began. “We're just going to look at the information”.
There was an opportunity for a couple of new items to be discussed, such as an item in the library budget, a $97,000 charge for the county’s share of a new book check out system. The system has been planned for over three years, and when the library staff made a presentation to council, they said that they had waited until the end to bill the county for its share of the cost.
County staff had only heard about the charge one week earlier, after the project was completed.
“This has led to a significant depletion of our library reserve,” said County CAO Liz Savill, “I'm not suggesting there was anything not shared, but it certainly was not highlighted. We need to work on our communication with the library.”
In 2008, the province will take back some of the downloaded costs, including $300,000 from a drug benefit plan, and this is part of the reason that the amount of money the county will be levying to ratepayers is projected to decrease by 3% this year.
Upon hearing that the county has been advised to anticipate a 3% increase in the budget for Kingston Frontenac Lennox and Addington Public Health, and that local ratepayers pay a higher percentage of public health costs than other ratepayers in Eastern Ontario, which cost the county $600,000 last year, Mayor Vanden Hoek said, “The intent of the moves the province has been making is to free up money on the municipal side for roads and bridges. If we don’t challenge these external agencies, then the money will be taken up by other bodies. I suggest, in tandem with the city, that we raise a red flag, delicately and diplomatically.”
“I don't think Public Health has any programs that are not mandated by the province,” said CAO Savill.
County staff are also looking for over $100,000 in capital upgrades to the IT department; including $43,325 for a new server and thin client system, $9,000 for a fire-wall, $7,000 for data storage, $20,000 for a network backup solution, $7,000 for a network fax server, $7,000 for a spam filter, and $22,000 for video conferencing equipment.
The draft budget includes $54,000 for a donation to the Kingston Hospital Foundation, as approved one week earlier by council. It also included money for the Rural Routes Transportation Service, although Mayors Davison and Vanden Hoek both indicated once again that they would oppose leaving money for Rural Routes in the 2008 budget.