| Apr 16, 2009

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Notes on Municipal Budgets

Central Frontenac BudgetNorth Frontenac Budget

Central Frontenac Council - Apr 14/09By Jeff Green

Last-minute slashing brings Central Frontenac budget to 2% solution

When Central Frontenac Council sat down to finalise their 2009 budget, they were faced with a more than $350,000 (over 10%) increase in the amount they were planning to levy from Central Frontenac ratepayers.

This did not sit right with many of them, and Councilor Norm Guntensperger was first off the mark, proposing that a $100,000 line in the budget for “village rehabilitation” that was put in the budget a week earlier be cut down to $5,000. “That proposal was not developed and was pretty vague,” he said.

“I agree with that cut,” said Councilor Frances Smith, “I truly believe that we can't leave the table with a 10% increase; if we do, we'd all better look for new jobs”.

Deputy Mayor Gary Smith, who had proposed the $100,000 village rehabilitation line in the first place, said, “We know what is needed to make our hamlets hospitable. If we don’t set an example, how can we expect the commercial sector to come and invest, to open a store?”

“The best economic development we can do in any community is to keep taxes down,” replied Frances Smith. “There is not a business in our communities that can afford a 10% increase in taxes. '09 is not the year to do this”.

Councilor John Purdon said he thought the best place to look for savings in the budget was the roads department budget, which he said has been increasing steadily over several years, including a $1 million increase in 2009.

“This has been going on for years. The budget was $2.2 million in 2002 and now it is $4.8 million. Cutting $100,000 from a budget like that should be possible,” said Purdon.

Guntensperger's motion to cut the village rehabilitation line by $95,000 was supported by seven of nine members of Council (Gary Smith and John Purdon voted against it) and the budget increase was cut to 8.5%.

Council then took John Purdon’s advice and talked about a global cut to the public works budget.

Councilor Jeff Matson wanted to look at the decision to fund four permanent employees in place of casual labourers that was made at the previous budget meeting. “We asked the public works manager to report back about what those people would be doing if they were hired, and we haven’t heard that report. So we could cut those people out of the budget,” he said.

A proposal was then made to cut $100,000 from the public works budget.

Mayor Gutowski said, “If we do that, I would recommend that we let the public works manager decide where to make the cuts. It is our role to say we don’t have the money for everything, but let him find the scope within his budget”.

Councilor Purdon then upped the ante, saying, “I would like to amend that to a $200,000 cut”.

Council approved that motion, bringing the township levy increase down to 3.85%.

During the ensuing coffee break, Deputy Mayor Gary Smith asked Treasurer Judy Gray what it would take to bring the increase to under 2%, and she said $80,000.

After the break, Smith proposed taking $80,000 out of the township’s general reserve fund.

Councilors Philip Smith and Bob Harvey said the township should not deplete reserves. “It will only put us back into a bind next year,” said Philip Smith, but in a 7-2 vote the proposal was accepted.

The resulting budget features a 2% increase in local taxes, and with increases in county taxes standing at 2.9% and education taxes at something less than 2%, the overall increase in the municipal levy in Central Frontenac will stand at 2% in 2009.

The impact of the budget on ratepayers will vary according to their own property assessments. (Please see Note on Municipal Budgets) 

Medical Centre project finally coming to an end

The renovation of the Sharbot Lake Medical Centre to establish a Family Health Team with a basket of services is now “substantially complete” according to Central Frontenac Chief Administrative Officer John Duchene.

Duchene presented a report to council that shows that the project, although it is over a year late in being completed, has come in within range of its original budget. As of April 1, the project was $11,000 over its $1.6 million budget, but there are a few minor items that have not been completed yet and will push the costs a bit more over budget.

A grand opening of the facility, complete with politicians (and cake we hope) is scheduled for May 23.

While the construction costs for the medical centre renovation are almost finalised, operating costs are still under negotiation.

A planned rental of a 633 sq. ft. space to the Community Care Access Centre has fallen through, but John Duchene said that Dr. Peter Bell will be looking to fill that space with another service.

“I would like to thank John Duchene for all his work on this project,” said Councilor Frances Smith,

“And it was only a year late,” replied Duchene.

Process for snowmobile club request

Township staff have developed a process whereby the request from the Ridgerunner Snowmobile Club to use a public road allowance onto Horseshoe Lake in the winter time can be considered by the township.

Once Council was assured that the process would end with them having an opportunity to make a final decision on the proposal, they voted to approve it.

Vet planning a move – The Verona Animal Hospital is planning to move to the building on the Westport Road that formerly housed the Bentley Seniors’ home. provided the property can be rezoned.

A public meeting on the re-zoning application yielded no particular dissent from the township’s planning consultant or any of the neighbouring property owners, and a bylaw amending the zoning will be prepared soon.

Building permits buck the recessionary trend

While housing starts throughout North America have been in the doldrums lately, Central Frontenac has seen an increase this winter, although it would be premature to declare a building boom based on January to March numbers.

Permits for three new homes have been taken out so far this year, as compared to one in the first quarter of 2008, and 0 in the first quarter of 2007.

In all, 10 building permits have been taken out this year, for a total construction value of $519,000. Last year, 13 permits for $229,000 in construction value were taken out in the same time period, and in 2007, nine permits for a value of $584,000 were purchased between January 1 and March 31. 

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