City eyes larger tax increase if budget shortfall can’t be addressed elsewhere

By Kirk Winter

Director of corporate services, Jennifer Stover.

Kawartha Lakes is currently looking at a $4.8 million shortfall in funding for their proposed 2021 operating budget.

Director of corporate services, Jennifer Stover, told council that unless something is done to reduce that shortfall, then local citizens could be looking at a 4 per cent increase in their property taxes, rather than the 3-3.5 per cent increase budgeted by the city as part of their five-and-10-year plans.

“The entire tax levy will be used in 2021 to support the operating budget only,” Stover said.

“Pressures on the budget include increased salaries for city employees, more money budgeted for winter control, higher waste management costs, and additional pandemic costs incurred by Victoria Manor and the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit,” Stover said.

“We have also had decreases in city investment income, transit usage, rental and usage fees of city facilities and fewer fees collected at landfill sites,” Stover added.

She said the city has received $4.8 million dollars from the federal government and provincial governments for pandemic relief, “but we are going to sit on that money until we see what happens in 2021,” Stover stated.

Councillor Doug Elmslie wanted to know why city investment income is lower with new records being set by stock markets worldwide. Elmslie also wanted a separate budget line item for consultants’ fees so the city would know what the true costs were of hiring these individuals.

“I want specific numbers on consultants’ fees,” Elmslie began, “and I want to know what the increase is in school board transfers.”

“Some consultants are not necessary,” Elmslie suggested, “as the city has the staff to do the work.”

Councillor Pat Dunn wanted to know how much of the $4.8 million in COVID relief has already been spoken for, and seemed surprised when Stover told him that city costs for the pandemic had already passed $5 million more than accounting for every dollar transferred to the city by the province and Ottawa.

“The money is supposed to last until the end of 2021, so we have no plans for spending those funds (on anything else),” Stover concluded.

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