City residents will see a 4.5 percent increase in taxes for 2022

By Kirk Winter

Kawartha Lakes council passed their 2022 operating budget at a special meeting of council on Dec. 7, keeping the increase in the tax levy to 3 per cent. When the special capital levy of 1.5 per cent passed in November is added to this figure, local rate payers will be looking at a 4.5 percent increase in their tax bills for the upcoming municipal tax year.

Budget requests were made by all municipal departments, and most senior staff couched their 2022 forecasts with an eye to the COVID pandemic possibly continuing well into the new year, and the highest inflation in 17 years playing havoc with costs like fuel, salt and sand. 

Highlights of the operating budget include the hiring of 12 full-time equivalent staff across a number of departments who will be responsible for tasks as varied as city planning, running the upcoming municipal election, waste management education and driving buses for Lindsay Transit. New management positions were created in Municipal By-law Enforcement and Parks and Recreation.

By department, here is what Kawartha Lakes is contemplating and concerned about for 2022.

Mayor and council

Letham said there were no major changes contemplated in the mayor’s office for the upcoming year. Letham did wonder whether professional development costs and mileage reimbursements would stay at the record lows seen in 2021 once the world opens up again and more in-person meetings and conferences are offered.

The mayor chastised some councillors for their tardiness in getting their expense reports in so he could make better decisions about what is required for the upcoming year.

Office of the CAO

“We have been laser focused on the pandemic,” CAO Ron Taylor said. “That will likely continue through the winter. We hope once that is done for the city to be involved in a pandemic recovery program. We need to figure out what lessons we learned from the pandemic and how we might do things differently.”

With recovery in mind, Taylor proposed four new positions to be added to his department: a one-year contract position in realty services responsible for land searches and finishing the city road inventory, a full-time administrative assistant for the clerks department to take a lead at city hall reception as city buildings reopen, a ten month contract for an election supervisor and a full time management person to work in bylaw and licensing.

“We need to build back to where we were,” Taylor said explaining the need for increases in staffing.

Councillor Pat Dunn wanted to discuss the administrative assistant’s job suggesting “there is no business case for the decision.”

“These positions are not put forward lightly,” Taylor said. “We need people to fill in for staff shortages right now.”

Councillor Tracy Richardson spoke in favour of the new positions saying, “A lot of hiring is going on because we are growing. These are building block positions as we move forward.”

Letham also backed the need for new people saying the CAO “is a prudent man.”

“The rationale is there. The numbers show the need when you look at costing and current levels of staffing. It might be a leap of faith, but these positions are necessary as we get back to normal.”

Dunn wondered whether the administrative assistants job is “an urgent fill” and brought forward a motion to have the position struck from the budget, which he lost by a 5-4 vote.

Dunn warned council after the vote to be vigilant about terminating one-year contracts after one year rather than let them become full time positions.

Council approved all four positions.

Community Services

Director Craig Shanks laid out an ambitious plan for his sprawling department that is responsible for everything from the city courier system to parks to cemeteries.

“We have 67 budget items for 2022,” Shanks said. “Priority projects include completion of the Bobcaygeon Beach Park, the HVAC installation at City Hall and assisting the committee spearheading the Coboconk Wellness Centre with their build.”

Shanks also shared that the department would be putting together a new energy management plan for the city, and is really hoping to reintroduce service to pre-pandemic levels at service centres, arenas and pools sometime in 2022.

He put forward the case for two additional parks crew leaders for 2022. These staff will be part of the union compliment, but will assist management in the north and south regions of the city. Shanks pointed out that his department has 115 full-time equivalent staff with only 10 managers and that the need is clearly there.

Councillor Ron Ashmore asked Shanks about the status of the Omemee library, whose rental building in the village has just been sold. Ashmore wondered how long a lease the library has and whether they will have to relocate.

“We have a five year lease that expires in 2023,” Shanks said. “There is no plan to change the location. We will need to speak to the new owners about the building.”

Council approved the two new positions.

Corporate Services

Director Jennifer Stover, whose department is responsible for the treasury, information technology, revenue collection, communications and human resources shared with council a number of important goals for 2022.

Priorities include a new human resources strategy, a new water meter program, the continued transfer of documents to electronic form, work on the Long Term Financial Plan, a look at cash management and discussion about the debt strategy moving forward.

Stover requested that council approve the hiring of a full-time internal auditor for the department saying, “We currently have a $300 million budget. There are only two accountants working for the city. We do not have the time or capacity to do everything we need to do. This new position will have oversight and reduce the chance of fraud. Outside auditors are only concerned with fraud in excess of $1.2 million. We want to limit fraud and maximize income.”

Stover suggested that this new auditor would focus on the “nitty-gritty” like cash handling, procurement procedures and ensure that all city funds, regardless of their amounts, are used properly.

Council approved the hiring of the auditor. 

Development Services

Development Services, a department responsible for building permits, economic development, mapping and GIS, planning and building has a full plate of new programming in front of them as they move into 2022.

Acting director Richard Holy told council that priorities in 2022 will include the City Official Plan, the Active Transportation Master plan, a draft rural zoning bylaw and a rollout of policy and programming that will focus on a healthy environment.

Holy made a request of council to approve the hiring of a Healthy Environment planner who will be responsible “for all things environmental” at the city. This individual’s portfolio would include a proposed Tree Preservation plan whose creation and implementation was slowed by the pandemic.

Dunn could not support the addition of this position, and called for it to be struck from the budget.

Both Letham and Taylor argued otherwise. Letham said the city needs a strategic plan for the environment, while Taylor said the individual would be “an ambassador for city environmental programs and act as a liaison with the conservation authorities.”

Elmslie added his support. “I get too many phone calls from frustrated individuals trying to build. There is too much work for too few people.”

Councillor Andrew Veale wondered if the hiring is not premature as the position should wait until hiring in the rest of the department is done, and decisions are made about the future direction for the department to take.

Richardson was fully supportive of the hiring given “the wave of development coming our way very soon.”

Council approved the position.

Engineering and corporate assets

Director Juan Rojas who oversees corporate assets, development, infrastructure design and construction, technical services, crossing guards and the Kawartha Lakes Airport had many of his department priorities already dealt with in the previously approved capital budget.

Rojas however did tell council of the ever improving financial outlook at the Kawartha Lakes Airport which has gone from being a chronic drain on the city to a facility that is now in the black for the first time in decades.

Emergency Services

The Kawartha Lakes Fire Service requested the addition of an administrative assistant who would primarily be responsible for the paperwork involved with scheduling, training and paying the city’s 310 volunteer fire personnel.

The position was approved.

Paramedic chief Randy Mellow told council that if and when the pandemic is no longer the priority for the department, both the service in Peterborough and Kawartha Lakes, who are involved in a shared service agreement, will continue to look for savings in procurement and improving services particularly in the border areas between the two regions.

The Kawartha Lakes Police Service budget and the Ontario Provincial Police budget were approved at a meeting earlier in November.

Human Services

With a budget of almost $59 million, Director Rod Sutherland’s department is responsible for children’s services, Ontario Works and ODSP, housing services, Victoria Manor, nurse practitioners and doctor recruitment.

Sutherland told council that pandemic outbreaks at childcare centres still continue to be problematic. The director also shared that recruiting of staff for Victoria Manor has proved to be a challenge and will only become more difficult when provincial regulations for four hours a day of individual care for each long-term care resident become the law in 2025.

Locally, Sutherland said Victoria Manor will need two dozen new staff, and across the province 20,000 new elder care positions will need to be filled with some combination of PSWs, RPNs and RNs. Sutherland says talks with the province about who these individuals will be continues.

Public Works

Director Bryan Robinson presented last, speaking for a department who manages roads, solid waste, water and wastewater, landfill services, fleet purchases and maintenance and transit.

While most of his 2022 departmental priorities were addressed in either the capital budget or the water/wastewater budget, Robinson asked permission to hire the equivalent of three staff.

The first position would be a waste reduction coordinator responsible for waste education. The final 2 positions would be some combination of part-time transit drivers who will be responsible for an expansion of the fourth route in Lindsay starting fall of 2022.

Council approved the positions.

Robinson also expressed serious concerns about his fleet budget because of the volatility of fuel, parts and equipment costs.

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