Jeff Green | Apr 09, 2009
Back to HomeFeature Article - April 9, 2009 Central Frontenac BudgetBy Jeff Green
Central Frontenac Council received some good news at the beginning of a five-hour budget session earlier this week. A projected $800,000 increase in the amount to be raised through local taxes in 2009 was down to about $400,000, thanks to some cuts that each department had made after the previous meeting on April 1.
Treasurer Judy Gray also informed council that there is $219,000 left over from a one-time grant for infrastructure that the township received from the province last year. This money can be used for new projects, or it can be applied to building projects already in the budget, resulting in savings to taxpayers.
In considering the public works budget, which took council several hours, a long debate took place over a proposal by Public Works Manager John Simcock to make four casual employees who have been working full-time hours into full-time township employees. The township would then have a 22-member public works department, with three managers and 19 operators/labourers.
Currently the township employs three managers and 15 full-time operators/labourers as well as up to 10 casual employees.
Several councilors were concerned about the $255,000 cost that was attached to the proposal, and several different options were considered, but none received majority support. In the end, savings associated with limiting the number of new full-time employees to two, or even zero, did not amount to more than $15,000 or $20,000, unless council decided to cut the amount of hours of work, no matter what category of employee carries it out.
Limitations on the public works department have already been felt, according to John Simcock.
“I can give you an example of the kind of impacts we are talking about,” Simcock said. “Last weekend there were a number of roads that were washed out throughout the township, but we are under orders to avoid overtime, and all but two workers had reached 40 hours. So, we did work on two roads that had to be kept clear, but we left the others until Monday”.
In the end, despite concerns that the township might be stuck with full-time employees in a time when there is no money for public works projects to proceed, but not wanting to tie the public works manager’s hand, the $255,000 was left in the budget, but the decision about full-time versus casual employees was deferred.
Deputy Mayor Gary Smith expressed a concern that although the base public works budget has ballooned by about a million dollars in 2009, there is a dearth of capital projects planned. “I prefer to spend money on the point end of the stick,” he said, a metaphor that he has repeated throughout the budget process. “That way people can see a direct benefit from their township tax dollar”.
It was proposed, and accepted for the time being, that $100,000 from the $219,000 left over infrastructure grant be set aside for “village rehabilitation”, which could include work on the deteriorated sidewalks in Arden, or on the drainage problem across from the library in Sharbot Lake.
As well, $40,000 was set aside to pave 1.3 kilometres on the Oak Flats road, to complete a major project that was undertaken last year. This is the only paving project that is included in the budget.
“We should send an email to Bill Snyder first thing tomorrow morning; it might cheer him up,” said Councilor Frances Smith.
Smith, who supported the motion enthusiastically, has sparred with Bill Snyder over the need to repair the Oak Flats road for many years. Snyder, who has been away from Council for several weeks after having major surgery, has been advocating for the Oak Flats Road repair since the township was created in 1998.
Eleven years later, barring any last minute budget changes, the project will finally be completed.
After hearing from the public works manager, Fire Chief Mark MacDonald faced council with his budget, and there were about $70,000 in savings that were found, in additions to cuts MacDonald had already made on his own.
Council will have one more session on the budget, before their regular meeting next Tuesday evening. They will look at the administration budget at that time.
Before that, they will have a chance to see the outcome of the budget deliberations thus far.
Treasurer Judy Gray will be calculating the outcome this week, and the numbers were not available on Tuesday (April 7) but Township CAO John Duchene said the township is looking at this point at a budget with about a 10% increase in the local levy to taxpayers.
Municipal taxes are made up of three components: township taxes, county taxes, and education taxes. As the result of the Frontenac County budget, which saw a 3% increase to the levy, and the flat rate education levy, at this point Central Frontenac ratepayers are facing about a 6-7% increase, on average, in their taxes for 2009. That is, unless changes are made at the final budget meeting next week.
The impact on the budget on ratepayers will vary, however. Properties throughout Ontario were reassessed last year, and in Central Frontenac the average property received a 40% increase in their assessed value, to be phased in at 10% per year for four years. Properties that fall below the average will see a lower tax increase this year, and properties with higher assessment increases will see a higher tax increase this year.
Central Frontenac is slated to approve their budget on April 21, at 9:30 am at the Oso Hall in Sharbot Lake.