City proposes $221 million operating budget

$75 million in salary, wages and benefits; City says among lowest of single tier municipalites

By Kirk Winter

$44 million of the budget is for contracted services like waste management and winter maintenance. File photo.

Director of corporate services Jennifer Stover put before council earlier this week a detailed plan for the city’s 2022 operating budget. If approved, this draft budget will see Kawartha Lakes spend more than it ever has on providing services for the people of the municipality.

The $221 million price tag is divided into seven different buckets of spending. These include:

  • $75 million in salary, wages and benefits.
  • $47 million to be transferred to “external clients” like Human Services and the OPP.
  • $44 million in contracted services like waste management and winter maintenance.
  • $24 million transfer to reserves to provide funding for the capital budget.
  • $17 million in materials, supplies and services like salt, sand and fuel.
  • $11 million in principal and interest on the debt.
  • $4 million in others.

Stover laid out in her detailed presentation how this capital budget will be funded with $130 million coming in tax-generated revenues, almost $56 million from provincial grants, $28 million raised through user charges generated by things like arena and hall rentals and almost $8 million from other sources like city reserves.

“By law we have to have a balanced budget,” Stover said. “Drivers for this budget in 2022 included $2.1 million more for salaries, $1.4 million for new hires, $600,000 for culvert maintenance and $400,000 in additional debt payment costs.”

CAO Ron Taylor called the proposed 2022 document a “recovery and reset budget.”

“Revenues are still lower that what is expected,” Taylor said. “We are pleased that we have been able to maintain services through the last 20 months of the pandemic.”

As part of the city gearing up for a return to a more normal 2022, Taylor and senior staff propose the hiring of at least 12 new staff, including two new managers.

“These positions have been in the queue for a couple of years,” Taylor said. “We have looked at many different ways of delivering service and these new positions are needed for recovery and resetting.”

Taylor told council that city salaries are still $3.5 million under pre-pandemic levels and that staffing in Kawartha Lakes as a percentage of revenue is near the bottom of single-tiered municipalities.

“We are a leader in single tier municipality staffing comparisons,” Taylor said.

Councillor Emmett Yeo wanted more information from the CAO about these potential new employees, wondering why the city is hiring more supervisors instead of much less expensive frontline workers.

“We have 1,200 staff,” Taylor responded. “All non-union staff number only 100. Of that only 50 are senior or supervisory staff. Our number of supervisors is extremely low.”

Taylor explained that many of the hires being proposed are to handle paperwork, payroll and scheduling that would allow department staff like the fire chief to focus on core services.

Councillor Pat Dunn asked, “If we are hiring to deal with workload because we are really, really busy are there things we just shouldn’t be doing? Are we doing too much ‘nice to do stuff’ instead of focusing on core services?”

“We have looked at all the options,” Taylor replied. “We have focused on delivering core functions in all our reviews. Many of these new positions will allow core staff to do core services.”

Dunn wondered if these positions were unnecessary during the pandemic and if council could just eliminate them during their debate on the operating budget?

“We need to start expanding. We need to begin re-opening services carefully and cautiously. We don’t have the luxury of pausing services for another year,” Taylor said.

Deputy-mayor Patrick O’Reilly asked Taylor if there are any areas of the city that are critically understaffed at the moment.

“There are no red flags at the moment,” Taylor responded. “If you had asked me a few weeks ago I would have been concerned about staffing at Victoria Manor and at the paramedic department, but additional provincial money has come in. We still have chronic shortages in our winter maintenance and building and planning staff. The competition for good people is intense and has heightened ten-fold during this pandemic.”

Councillor Ron Ashmore asked why federal and provincial buildings are open regular hours while city service centres are still operating at reduced hours.

“All four service centres are open with reduced hours,” Taylor said. “Council will need to look at service changes. A report will be coming in the first quarter of 2022 discussing the delivery of all services.”

Much more council scrutiny of any new hires and the operating budget is expected.

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