After two full days of budget deliberations, Meaford's Council has made some changes that would see the required rate increase in 2021 drop from 8.7 percent to roughly 5.14 percent.
Council's budget deliberation sessions were held at the opera house at Meaford Hall on Monday, November 9, and Tuesday, November 10.
Though the full-day meetings were open to the public, interested ratepayers appear to have opted to take in the meetings via the live stream on YouTube given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Video of both days of council budget deliberations is available on Meaford's YouTube channel.
As identified in the draft budgets presented to Council in October, 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 $20,925, an increase of more than $60,000 to municipal insurance policy premiums, as well as 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 $564,150. With the annual increases to infrastructure funding of one percent for roads, one percent for bridges, and half a percent for municipal facilities, the proposed 8.7 percent increase would cost the average residential property owner an extra $188 in 2021, or $15.70 per month.
Over the two days of budget deliberations Council sought to reduce the required increase for 2021, and they managed to find some areas to cut, primarily from the capital budgets.
Council has directed staff to increase the cost of bag tags for trash disposal from $3 to $4, a move that will provide roughly $60,000 in increased revenue in 2021, and those savings will help offset the significant increase to the municipality's waste management contract beginning next year.
Council also decided to reduce the proposed $100,000 funding to the Fire Apparatus Reserve to just $40,000, saving another $60,000. Savings were found in the capital budget for Lakeview Cemetery, with Council reducing the funding for two new columbarium niches to one, saving another $30,000.
Council also decided not to fund a proposed parking lot resurfacing at the arena in 2021. The project will be pushed forward to the 2022 budget, saving $201,000 on the capital budget.
Fleet funding was reduced from the proposed $330,000 to $160,000, saving $170,000. At Council's November 16 meeting approval was given for the municipality to enter into a fleet management agreement with Enterprise Fleet Management to replace 21 light duty vehicles, many of them older than ten years, with a fleet of new vehicles that would be managed over the next ten years by Enterprise.
The cuts proposed would reduce the required rate increase in 2021 to 5.14 percent, however those decisions are not yet final as Council will continue to deliberate and make changes to the 2021 budgets through to their November 30 meeting.
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.
Municipal budget documents can be found at www.meaford.ca/budget2021.
All questions about the budget from Council and the public can be sent to budgets@Meaford.ca.