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council sept14 270Budget season has arrived for Meaford Council. At their September 14 meeting Council provided direction to municipal staff to prepare a draft budget for 2021 that will feature no enhancements to services or staff levels unless required to address impacts of COVID-19, while maintaining Council's commitment to annual increases to roads, bridges, and municipal facility infrastructure funding.

Council also directed staff to “budget any tax levy increases resulting from real assessment growth due to new development and building construction assessment as increased taxation revenue to offset budgetary increases.”

In a report from Treasurer Darcy Chapman, Council was advised that the coming year's budget is subject to pressures beyond the control of the municipality.

The estimates (in 2021-2024 projections established last year) indicated a potential increase of $424,900 or 3.71% in the operating budget and a total 8.07% increase due to continual capital project pressures, adding an expected $447,200 in 2021. The biggest overall change in the assumptions relates to waste management contract costs, liability insurance increases and COLA increases. Given this, any initial target under 8% may very well be unattainable,” Chapman advised council.

Among the top pressures on the 2021 budget are an increase to the municipal waste management contract of $365,000, an estimated increase to the policing contract of roughly $75,000, as well as an increase of more than $60,000 to municipal insurance policy premiums, along with salary and staff grid level progressions amounting to nearly $80,000, and increases to CPP, EI, WSIB, EHT, and OMERS of $31,350.

The impact of these items alone on the 2021 municipal budget is $611,675. With the annual increases to infrastructure funding of one percent for roads, one percent for bridges, and half a percent for municipal facilities, along with a projected increase of nearly $150,000 in 2021 from increased assessment revenue, staff project a need for a rate increase in 2021 of more than 5.7 percent.

The single biggest taxable property type of single family dwelling makes up about 50% of all properties within the municipality. These 3,100 properties have an average assessment of $271,610. Based on this assessment, using a 5.73% budget increase, the 'normal' residential property owner would see their municipal levy share of the tax bill rise by +/- $124 annually or about $10 per month,” Chapman told Council.

Chapman cautioned Council that the actual required rate increase for 2021 could ultimately be significantly higher than 5.73 percent due to additional impacts resulting from the ongoing state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There could be a whole bunch of other costs that we have to deal with, or potential lost revenue because of what's happening right now with regards to the pandemic,” Chapman told Council. “Right now we're trying to give you the best picture that we can, and we're up against at least 5.7 percent just getting out of the gate, before anything else.”

Municipal Clerk Matt Smith was blunt about Council's options for the 2021 budget.

Darcy talked about the number one resolution before you that says that we (staff) won't bring forward any enhancements, and that's because there is a recognition money is challenging this year,” Smith told Council. “Darcy last year I remember said that we are spending beyond our means, and that goes to the comments about service levels. For the income that we have, if we're not going to raise our budgets by 15 percent a year for the next five years, we're not going to be able to continue to do the services that we are offering, and we're certainly not going to be able to deal with these very important problems. If we want to save significant money, it probably means cutting services.”

The municipality of Meaford is seeking input from ratepayers as the the 2021 Municipal budget is being prepared, and they have prepared a survey (www.surveymonkey.com/r/Meaford2021Budget) for ratepayers to complete as part of the ratepayer engagement process.

More information on the Municipal budget and a link to the budget survey can be found at www.meaford.ca/budget2021. The survey will be available until Friday, October 16.

Tabling of the draft budget is expected on October 19 at Council.

A public engagement session will be held at Woodford Hall on Wednesday, October 28 at 6:30 p.m., and Council will have two full-day sessions to discuss the draft budgets on November 9 and 10.

A statutory public meeting will be held on Monday, December 14, with Council expected to give final approval to the 2021 budgets at their January 11, 2021 meeting.