Cap­i­tal bud­get talks be­gin Dec. 5

Shoreline Beacon - - Opinion -

Saugeen Shores coun­cil­lors added ap­prox­i­mately $115,000 to the draft op­er­at­ing bud­get for projects not rec­om­mended by staff dur­ing Nov. 20 talks, and, if ap­proved as is, the “av­er­age” home­owner with a prop­erty as­sessed at $284,000 would pay ap­prox­i­mately $25 more to sup­port the op­er­at­ing bud­get next year, not the $4.61 staff pro­posed at the be­gin­ning of the six-hour meet­ing.

The draft op­er­at­ing bud­get re­quires $11.6 mil­lion in taxes and is “fair, rea­son­able and af­ford­able” ac­cord­ing to CAO David Smith, who in­tro­duced Sue Mur­ray, the Town’s new Direc­tor of Fi­nance/Trea­surer, on the job for her sec­ond day.

Smith said the draft of­fers some en­hance­ments and noted the town is “for­tu­nate” to have “in­cred­i­ble growth” ex­pected to gen­er­ate $300,000 in as­sess­ment next year, and that, with the slow shift to user-fees, will re­quire less rev­enue from tax­pay­ers.

He said the bud­get is “good value for tax­pay­ers” and pointed to charts show­ing Saugeen Shores ranked in the “low” cat­e­gory of tax­a­tion lev­els in com­par­i­son with other sim­i­lar com­mu­ni­ties.

“We’re an­tic­i­pat­ing a $60 mil­lion growth in Saugeen Shores this year, which is in­cred­i­ble growth ..... ” Smith said.

Al­most half of the draft op­er­at­ing bud­get is “in­vested” in staff costs, he said, not­ing the bud­get in­cludes $90,000, a “sig­nif­i­cant” im­pact on the town, to pre­pare for the in­crease in the Ontario min­i­mum wage to $14 per hour in Jan­uary, from $11.60.

The draft op­er­at­ing bud­get also an­tic­i­pates a nine per cent in­crease in util­ity costs.

Depart­ment-by-depart­ment re­view of the draft bud­get raised a num­ber of ques­tions and com­ments from coun­cil­lors.

An­tic­i­pat­ing $160,000 in tourism rev­enue, the Cham­ber of Com­merce bud­get in­cludes $10,000 in rev­enue to the town, prompt­ing Deputy Mayor Luke Char­bon­neau to ques­tion the de­pend­abil­ity of that money when just months ago Pump­kin­fest of­fi­cials had the Town back a $25,000 line of credit which was not drawn on.

“We need to en­gage with the Cham­ber ASAP on this point, one - so we’re not in this sit­u­a­tion next Septem­ber, where we are up against it and have to of­fer a line [of credit]. We need clar­ity and more cer­tainty ” Char­bon­neau said.

Pump­kin­fest coun­cil rep. Coun. Dave Myette said the event was “one of the most suc­cess­ful ever ” with a $40,000 profit. S.S. Trol­ley With $32,000 in Town money - in­clud­ing a $15,000 grant for op­er­a­tions and $5,000 for main­te­nance - in the draft op­er­at­ing bud­get, Vice Deputy Mayor Diane Hu­ber sug­gested it is time to de­velop a trol­ley busi­ness plan be­cause the town has lim­ited re­sources and did not an­tic­i­pate ad­di­tional costs.

Chief Phil Ea­gle­son iden­ti­fied fire­fighter well­ness “phys­i­cal, emo­tional and en­vi­ron­men­tal” as the bud­get fo­cus. As pro­posed, salaries and ben­e­fits for 2.5 full-time and 54 vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers makes up most of the $798,121 draft fire bud­get.

Coun­cil­lors ap­proved $68,000, not rec­om­mended by staff, for a new full-time fire train­ing of­fi­cer who will also have cor­po­rate train­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

Re­tir­ing Po­lice Chief Dan Rivett pre­sented a $3.7 mil­lion po­lice bud­get — his 14th — that rep­re­sents a zero per cent change from last year. He joked he thought about cre­at­ing a “fake bud­get’”with a 19 per cent in­crease for the on­com­ing chief to deal with.

On a per­sonal note, Rivett thanked the town for its sup­port over the years and for pro­vid­ing “re­ally ter­rific op­por­tu­ni­ties” to his fam­ily. He and his wife are leav­ing Saugeen Shores to move closer to their grand­chil­dren.

The town cre­ated 132 new res­i­den­tial units this year, an “ex­cep­tional” year and ex­pects to is­sue 400 build­ing per­mits this year. When asked about af­ford­abil­ity staff ac­knowl­edged “very few” of the new units would be con­sid­ered “av­er­age” and face the pro­posed $25 town tax in­crease for the op­er­at­ing bud­get.

Staff ex­pect the great­est area of growth this year will be in semi-de­tached units. The draft op­er­at­ing bud­get in­cludes $9,500 to ex­pand a per­ma­nent part-time by­law en­force­ment of­fi­cer to 35 hours a week from 32, to al­low a lower-paid staff to han­dle some of the nui­sance com­plaints now han­dled by po­lice.

The Town ex­pects to spend $599,777 next year for win­ter con­trol - most of it for salaries for six full­time staff.

Deputy Mayor Diane Hu­ber sug­gested con­tract­ing out ser­vices is cost­ing tax­pay­ers more, and not op­er­at­ing at a break-even level, as planned. Staff said garbage, plus re­cy­cling plus land­fill do come out to a rev­enue-neu­tral zero with rev­enues from bag tag fees, tip­ping fees, the fixed levy for land­fill.

Aging in­fra­struc­tures, two new splash pads, ex­pan­sion of the Dr. Earl Med­i­cal Cen­tre, re­de­vel­op­ment of the wa­ter­front and “scope creep” - added re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and costs - are pres­sures fac­ing the depart­ment’s seven full-time staff. The hours for a part-time staff mem­ber ap­proved last year would be in­creased to full-time.

With a pro­posed $255,528 op­er­at­ing bud­get, staff said re­pairs to date keep the aging Cen­ten­nial Pool open and op­er­at­ing as the town searches for part­ners to help build a new aquat­ics cen­tre, but the chal­lenge is that the fa­cil­ity is not ac­ces­si­ble.

Among fund­ing for 10 new or in­creased ser­vice lev­els ap­proved by coun­cil­lors were: a $15,000 grant to the vol­un­teer Cana­dian Coast Guard Aux­il­iary in Saugeen Shores; $65,00 for a “rig­or­ous” road crack and seal pro­gram; $15,000 for “en­vi­ron­men­tal con­trol man­age­ment” - pro­posed plant­ing of trees and shrubs to try to force geese, and their “ex­ces­sive drop­pings” away from the Port El­gin har­bour and Fairy Lake in Southamp­ton.

Coun. Neil Me­nage sug­gested the prob­lem will take more than $15,000 to deal with geese in the next two years. CAO Smith said it is a start, and an­tic­i­pated a “sig­nif­i­cant” bud­get in­crease next year. Vice Deputy Mayor Hu­ber sug­gested they need more so­lu­tions as dis­cour­ag­ing geese from town hot spots just shifts the prob­lem else­where.

Coun. Dave Myette said money for plant­ings would not be well-spent as when geese lose their fear of hu­mans there is just one “cruel” so­lu­tion, which he did not spec­ify.

- Coun. John Rich asked for a staff re­port on the cost to ex­tend ice hours at the Plex from May 15 to Au­gust 5..

- Deputy Mayor Char­bon­neau asked for a re­port on cost sav­ings to con­tract out ser­vices like grass cut­ting and build­ing man­age­ment

- Coun. Ch­eryl Grace sug­gested the Town would have to make “sig­nif­i­cant cap­i­tal in­vest­ments ” in its tourists camps in­clud­ing im­prov­ing sub-parâwash­rooms for her to sup­port a pro­posed five per cent in­crease in camp fees, which help gen­er­ate $500,000 an­nu­ally in prof­its an­nu­ally.

Staff said the $100,000 ap­proved last year and $65,000 pro­posed in the cap­i­tal bud­get this year will cover a new wash­room/ shower fa­cil­ity by the tourist camp at the Lakeview ball di­a­mond.

- Coun. Don Mathe­son asked for a re­port on a pro­posal to de­crease the ice rental rate for high school stu­dents to $40 from $96, and drop the the rate for el­e­men­tary school ice use to zero.

Staff said next steps in­clude mak­ing the bud­get changes sug­gested by coun­cil­lors and build the num­bers into a work plan.

Af­ter the meet­ing Mayor Mike Smith said the pro­posed draft is a “re­spon­si­ble one”.

“We’ve got lots of de­mands on our com­mu­nity be­cause we’re a grow­ing com­mu­nity. We’re get­ting all kinds of de­mands for ad­di­tional ser­vices,” Smith said, adding de­mands for more beach main­te­nance and in­creased ice time, need more staff and that drives up costs.

Coun­cil­lors tackle the draft cap­i­tal bud­get Dec. 5, and fi­nal ap­proval of the con­sol­i­dated op­er­at­ing and cap­i­tal bud­gets is slated for Jan­uary.

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