Budget article update - Wednesday 6:00 pm
(At their meeting today, Frontenac County Council considered proposals which would have brought their 2018 budget levy down by up to $150,000, but in the end only managed to make the most superficial of cuts to the document.
But pity the poor foster kids!
A 6,000 expenditure to support a scholarship program for foster children in Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, was cut from the budget. The impact of the cut was to lower the budget levy by 0.06%. The only other change to the budget that was made by council was to remove another $6,400 from taxation by cutting almost half of the budget for a parking lot restoration project at the county offiuce/Fairmount Home complex.
All in the levy to ratepayers has been reduced from $9.775 million to $9.763 million, a decrease of a little over a tenth of one per cent. The net increase in the levy to ratepayers has been set a 4.4%.
The other potential changes that would have had a greater impact did not have enough support from Council to come to fruition.
A motion to cut the $55,061 contribution to the University Hospital Foundation of Kingston, which was made by North Frontenac Mayor Ron Higgins, did not receive a seconder.
The only major dispute of the morning came when Warden Ron Vandewal proposed that the ambulance that is stationed on Wolfe Island could be replaced with a cheaper option using a single paramedic and a first response vehicle. The transport ambulance would come from Kingston off the soon to be upgraded ferry service. This would save about $100,000 per year, and a portion of those savings would go to Frontenac County ratepayers.
Chief of Paramedic Services Paiul Charbonneau said that the alternative service would be a good fit for Wolfe Islands and would serve the residents as well as the traditional ambulance that has been phased in.
That did not sit well with Frontenac Islands Mayor Dennis Doyle however.
“Just like we voted to support the K&P Trail and Economic Development, I would ask that the county support the residents of Wolfe Island by completing the phase-in of ambulance service that this council started in 2015.”
Council stood with Doyle.
The draft 2018 budget thus remained intact, with the only losers from today’s process being part of a parking lot and a foster child who will not get a scholarship.
Overall spending for Frontenac County, which stood at $41.3 milliom in the draft budget, remains at $41.3 million. The $26,000 decrease in total expenditures (0.06%) falls within the rounding error.
The following was published before the meeting on Wednesday morning, and is based on the content of the draft budget, which as explained above, has remained fundamentally intact in its final incarnation
Perhaps Kelly Pender sky dives on the weekends, but in his working life the Frontenac County Chief Administrative Officer is averse to risk and drama. As far as the annual Frontenac County budget is concerned, he has been preaching from the gospel of predictable, controlled budget increases over time.
This has taken a lot of the drama out of the annual Frontenac County budget process, which was never a riveting spectacle to witness even before Pender took the helm.
This year Frontenac County Council has moved away from the very general; approving the parameters of the budget in conceptual terms in September, to the very specific; looking at individual projects as add-ons to the budget in late October.
This week they received, for the first and likely the last time, a draft budget document. It contains few surprises.
The number that matters in 2018 will be $9,775,000, that’s how much will be levied to the four Frontenac Townships if Council accepts the budget as presented Wednesday morning (This article will be updated on Frontenacnews.ca at that time) The townships will then collect that money from Frontenac County properties.
This projected levy is over $400,000 higher than it was in 2017, an increase of 4.5%.
Most of that increase came about as the result of previous decisions by this Council.
They indicated at their meeting in September that they would like to see an operating budget, including service enhancements, come in at under 1.5%, the figure for the increase in the consumer price index (CPI) for the year as calculated in late August.
Treasurer Susan Brandt, working her first budget as the lead official (she was the Deputy Treasurer until replacing the retired Marion Vanbruinessen earlier this year) followed last year’s practice and added 0.6% to that target, based on figures for the projected increase in property assessment that was provided by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation.
By keeping the operating budget increase to 1.1% ($104,117), adding 0.89% ($83,550) for new projects, and using $88,000 from reserve funds, the result was a 2% increase. This increase includes a new overnight Personal Support Worker shift at Fairmount Home and a new Human Resources position, as well as $35,000 for the Economic Development Department.
Added to the 2% increase from this year’s process are increases resulting from commitments made earlier in the mandate of this council. The largest of those is 1.78% ($166,7782) for two service enhancements of the Frontenac Paramedic Services, which are being phased in. One is on Wolfe Island, which is now fully funded, and the other is the second of three increases for a new overnight ambulance in Kingston. Another 0.65% ($60,787) is devoted to increase the reserve fund for capital projects, which has been in place for three years now and will continue to effect future budgets.
All together, the increase rounds off to just about 4.5%
Because of the incremental process and the weight of prior commitments, there is little to be decided when the entire package is presented this week. All of the spending increases have been approved in principle at previous meetings, but Council is not bound by those prior decisions.
Based on the discussions that took place earlier, the only item that is at all likely to re-surface is the commitment to provide $55,000 each year for ten year to the University Hospital Foundation of Kingston. That was approved in a vote of 6-3 and may come up for a final vote before the budget is signed, sealed and delivered.
Whether approved with or without amendments, the enacting bylaw for the budget will not be before Council until their meeting on December 20th.
(Frontenac County’s overall spending budget for 2018 will be $41.3 million, up 3% ($1.2 million) from 2017. Most of the money required to deliver Frontenac County Services is provided by the Province of Ontario and the City of Kingston, which provide the lion’s share of funding for the two largest County operations (Fairmount Home and Frontenac Paramedic Services)
4% increase likely in Frontenac County budget – offset by 1% in growth
Frontenac County Council said yes to most of the requests for funding it received as part of its 2018 budget deliberations. Fortunately for Frontenac County ratepayers, a lot of the requests came from service areas that are shared with the City of Kingston. For example, the cost of a new 11pm -7am Personal Support Worker Shift at Fairmount Home, a 1.4 FSE (Full time staff equivalent) is $91,147 with benefits, but Frontenac County ratepayers will only pay $29,167 and City of Kingston ratepayers will cover the rest because of a cost sharing agreement for the home. Similarly, a Human Resources generalist position that is being created will cost $87,815 for salary and benefits, but only $27,339 is being charged to county residents. A $45,000 parking lot improvement project at the Fairmount Home/County office complex will similarly cost county ratepayers $14,400 with Kingston covering the rest.
The major exception, in terms of cost, is the proposal for a $35,000 levy contribution to the Economic Development Reserve Fund, and a commitment to increase that reserve by $35,000 each year for the next five years, in order to bring the department into a stronger long term position with an annual budget that is $170,000 higher than 2016 levels by 2023.
Although this proposal will lead to a greater increase in taxation than any of the other proposals in front of Council, it was well received and enthusiastically approved. Much of that enthusiasm can be attributed to the successful implementation of the new Frontenac brand and the brand ambassador program.
“I’ve been involved in municipal politics for 30 years and for the first time people are coming up to me at church and asking about how they can get involved in a Frontenac County program. They are now relating to the county as something that can do something for us,” said Central Frontenac Mayor Frances Smith.
“I don’t think that my township is going to set up an economic development department on its own,” said Ron Vandewal of South Frontenac. “We rely on the county for this. Even if it costs us more in the future, it is still cheaper than doing it on our own.”
All told the projects listed above will increase the county levy by 0.91%.
Council also considered a number of external requests. The largest of these was a request from the University Hospitals Kingston Foundation for a $200,000 annual donation. Council opted instead for a $55,061 annual donation. Because the County has been making a donation of $54,000 each year for ten years, and even though the ten year commitment was over with, the expenditure is already included in the budget, so only the increase was included for the purpose of budget deliberations last week, even though all decisions will be subject to a further consideration of the entire budget on November 15.
Still, council members took divergent views towards the request.
John Inglis from North Frontenac said that he took the presentation by the hospital foundation, which took place in September, “at face value, and I support making a $200,000 donation.”
On the other side of the coin, South Frontenac Mayor (and current County Warden) Ron Vandewal said “I really struggle when you start spending money outside of your mandate”.
North Frontenac Mayor (and current Deputy Warden) Ron Higgins said “This is basically a donation. Is it in our job to do donations? I can’t justify it.”
Central Frontenac Mayor Frances Smith took the middle ground.
“I do believe we have to give them something,” she said, “but we struggle to pay our own staff. I can’t see a jump like they are looking for.”
Gradually the status quo expenditure of $55,061 seemed to gain favour.
“I’ve got no problem doing what we are already doing, because it is in our budget,” said Frontenac Islands Mayor Dennis Doyle.
By a show of hands $55,061 donation was remained in the budget (see editorial)
A smaller donation, $6,000 towards a scholarship program for children in foster care, was also approved, but a $10,000 request for an incentive program for recording artists was referred to the Community Development Advisory Committee.
The final discussion centered around a set of requests from Frontenac Transportation Services (FTS) for an increase to the $96,000 that the county already contributes. The not for profit service is led by Rural Frontenac Community Services, in partnership with Southern Frontenac Community Services.
Because of change in ridership over the last 18 months or so, a decrease in third party funded rides by agencies such as Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Supports Program, and an increase in rides for seniors, FTS has moved from a modest surplus standing, to a deficit. To deal with their financial issues, they asked the county for a $20,000 increase in the annual support payment, a $10,000 one time payment to cover the 2017 deficit, $5,000 for a fund to subsidise rides for low income seniors, and $10,000 to undertake a pilot project to develop an accessible service in response to a request from the Frontenac County Accessiblity Committee.
Dennis Doyle was un-moved by the requests.
“I think we give them enough already,” he said, but his view did not prevail.
“I can’t see putting another $20,000 on the levy without seeing a business case from them that tells us how they are going to deal with the reality they are facing on the ground,” said Ron Vandewal.
In the end Vandewal’s position held sway. Council agreed to provide an extra $20,000 in 2018 as a one time payment, taken from a $100,000 senior’s transportation reserve fund, and to fund the $10,000 pilot from the same fund, which will be cut to $70,000 by the end of the year.
“They can come to Council next year with a business plan and the new council can decide if they want to do a permanent increase in funding,” said Vandewal.
Because reserve funds were used, the FTS increase will not impact the levy, and the impact from all the requests from outside sources was only $7,061, the net impact of all the project proposals debated by the Committee of the Whole on Wednesday and Thursday of last week is an increase of a shade under 1% on the overall levy.
County Treasurer Susan Brant told the news last week that the operating budget she has prepared will include an increase inline with the annualised Consumer Price Index for August (1.5%) and a commitment to a 0.65% increase for an infrastructure reserve, which are both mandated by Council.
With the increases from last week, that 3.15% budget increase is likely. Brant also indicated that, as was done last year, another increase of up to 1% will likely be included in the budget. This will be offset by property assessment growth in the county that will be identified by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation when they deliver their annual assessment report for Frontenac County.
In all, the budget that Council will see on November 20 will include an increase in the range of 4% in the overall levy to county ratepayers.
Before members of Frontenac County Council see a complete budget document, they are meeting this week to consider requests for new spending. Some of these requests are coming from internal sources, such as the county run Fairmount Home, Frontenac Paramedic Services, and the Human Resources and Economic Development departments.
Among the list of requests is a new 7 day a week overnight Personal Support Worker (PSW) shift at Fairmount Home, and a new Human Resources position. The salaries for these jobs would be funded mostly by the City of Kingston, but county ratepayers would be on tap for $29,167 for the PSW shift, and $27,339 for the Human Resources position.
Among the other project proposals that would impact taxation is $14,400 for the county share of the costs of improvements to the parking lot at the Fairmount Home/County office complex, and a $35,000 in 2017 to boost the budget for the Economic Development Department in order to keep it at its current capacity when a three year provincial grant runs out.
County ratepayers would only be saddled with $111,000, a 1/2% increase, if all the internally driven project are approved.
That is only one part of the tax picture, however. This week council will also consider requests from external groups. Among these is a request from the University Hospital Foundations of Kingston for $200,000 toward ongoing improvements at three Kingston hospitals. This would be an increase of $146,000 over the contribution made by the county in 2017, which was the tenth and final year in a $54,000 annual contribution to a previous fund raising drive. The other large ticket item is a basket of requests from Frontenac Transportation Services for a total increase of $44,000 to their annual grant of $96,000.
All told the external requests come to over $205,000 and if granted would increase taxation by a further 2.2%.
Once the project proposals are dealt with, council will consider the budget as a whole. Based on a motion passed in September, that budget will include an increase of 1.5% for inflation, based on the Stats Canada Consumer Price Index for the year ending August 31st. Council has also agreed to 0.65% increase each year to go towards long term infrastructure replacement costs. In 2017, another 1% spending increase was covered by an increase in property assessment from new construction, and although the property assessment data is not in yet, a similar increase will be in the budget that council will be in front of council next month.
Essentially Council is looking at 3% increase before looking at any new projects, and about a 6.4% increase if they decide to say yes to all of the proposals that will be before them this week.
The likelihood is that at least some of the requests will be pegged back or eliminated, as council struggles to bring in their final budget before municipal elections in the fall of 2018.
Council meets this week to debate the project proposals, on the expectation that they will consider the budget as a whole on November 15 with a view towards adopting it in December.
Ten years ago Frontenac County Council committed $540,000 over ten years to help fund the re-development project at Kingston General Hospital and the Cancer Care Centre of Eastern Ontario. In the spring, the fund raisers from the University Kingston Hospitals Kingston foundation came back to Frontenac County with an update about the kinds of upgrades that are being planned for the hospital over the next few years, and said they would be back with a formal funding request.
They came back this week, and the ask is $200,000, which is what the presenters back in the spring predicted it would be. On a per-capita basis, if Frontenac County Council agrees to the request, its residents will be paying, on the basis of number of hospital visits per resident per year, the same as the City of Kingston pays. Looking at it another way, with 40,000 visits per year, Frontenac County would be kicking in $5 per resident visit as an annual donation.
While this seems like a large increase for the foundation to ask for, the request is actually lower than it was in 2007, when they asked for $220,000 per year of the council of that day. Council decided to pay just under 1/4 of the amount requested, $54,000 per year.
Council is expected to consider the request when they consider their 2018 budget later in the fall.