Bud­get talks un­der­way

Coun­cil­lor asks for more time with bud­get doc­u­ments be­fore mak­ing de­ci­sions

Packet & Times (Orillia) - - FRONT PAGE - PATRICK BALES

The City of Oril­lia’s 2018 bud­get could cost the typ­i­cal prop­erty owner in the city an ex­tra $100.

The pre­lim­i­nary op­er­at­ing bud­get for the city is set to rise 3.34%, trans­lat­ing to an in­crease of $101 for ev­ery $250,000 of as­sess­ment.

That num­ber doesn’t take into ac­count the prov­ince’s ed­u­ca­tion tax rate, which will not be fi­nal­ized un­til May. City staff ex­pect the ed­u­ca­tion tax rate to cre­ate a lower blended tax rate, as has been the trend in re­cent years.

As well, the tax rate doesn’t ac­count for changes in a prop­erty’s value. With 2018 be­ing the sec­ond-year of the cur­rent Mu­nic­i­pal Prop­erty As­sess­ment Cor­po­ra­tion phase-in cy­cle, each prop­erty owner could face a dif­fer­ent in­crease or de­crease, in real terms, based on the in­crease or de­crease in value to his/her prop­erty.

The op­er­at­ing bud­get it­self has come in lower than planned, city trea­surer Jim Lang told coun­cil­lors. In July, staff be­gan their work on the bud­get with a goal of 3.5%.

“There were a cou­ple of is­sues; prob­a­bly the largest was that the OPP set­tled their con­tract with their em­ploy­ees,” Lang ex­plained. “Up un­til this point, we’d been mak­ing es­ti­mates as to what that might be. The ac­tual is less than the es­ti­mate, so we’ve been able to see some sav­ings there.”

Be­yond that, the lower im­pact was the re­sult of the work put in by staff over the sum­mer and through the fall to fine-tune the es­sen­tial ser­vice lev­els the city seeks to pro­vide.

While some of the in­creases are more in­fla­tion­ary, new spend­ing ac­counts for some of the op­er­at­ing bud­get’s larger items.

“We have a new tran­sit con­tract that’s in­creas­ing costs. There’s a num­ber of ini­tia­tives for tran­sit that fac­tor into that,” Lang said.

“We’re in­tro­duc­ing a brand new re­cre­ation cen­tre, which has some im­pact,” he added. “How­ever, we’ve been planning for that for the past three or four years.”

The new tran­sit con­tract adds al­most $275,000 to the bud­get, or about 0.5%. The re­cre­ation cen­tre has a bud­get line of $434,500, equal to nearly 1% of the in­crease, but is off­set in part by a $200,000 trans­fer from re­serves.

The bud­get de­lib­er­a­tions were al­most de­railed be­fore they started, with con­cerns about the process once again be­ing raised by Coun. Tim Lauer. Rather than his usual com­plaint — that the process for a new year should be un­der­taken in the new year — he ques­tioned the amount of time coun­cil­lors ac­tu­ally had with the doc­u­ments.

“It sort of slipped by me that we’re ex­pected to go through the en­tire cap­i­tal book by Fri­day,” Lauer said.

“I have a real prob­lem with just hav­ing two days to go through this whole book. There was a time when we used to get these two weeks be­fore­hand. You got to go around to talk to each depart­ment head and you used to be able to ac­tu­ally visit sites.”

Coun­cil­lors were re­minded by CAO Gayle Jack­son they had pre­vi­ously ap­proved the dates for bud­get de­lib­er­a­tions, but there was still a dis­con­nect in the eyes of Lauer.

“If we had the book two weeks ago, this wouldn’t be an is­sue,” he said.

Coun. Ted Emond had his con­cerns with the process as well, sug­gest­ing coun­cil­lors were be­ing asked to pass mo­tions on re­ports they hadn’t been able to vet.

But the process re­ally hadn’t changed dur­ing this term of coun­cil, Lang sug­gested. The mo­tions pre­sented to com­mit­tee Tues­day had been worded not so that bud­get com­mit­tee ac­cepted the re­ports, but ac­knowl­edge their ex­is­tence in ad­vance of the de­lib­er­a­tions in the com­ing days.

Bud­get com­mit­tee meets again Thurs­day with the agen­cies and com­mit­tees coun­cil sup­ports through the bud­get process.

De­lib­er­a­tions on the city’s op­er­at­ing and cap­i­tal bud­gets are set to be­gin Fri­day morn­ing. How­ever, a special meet­ing of coun­cil has been called for 12:30 p.m. Thurs­day to re-eval­u­ate the sched­ule.

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