City treasurer breaks down budget as tax increase looms

By Kirk Winter

Council says it has heard loud and clear that roads are a priority.

City treasurer Carolyn Daynes said the spending priorities for the city have really not changed in the last five years. Those priorities are roads, waste and transit, police, fire and paramedics, parks, recreation, libraries and city facilities, building, planning and economic development and housing, children’s services, long term care and Ontario Works.

Daynes told council at a recent meeting that the proposed 3 per cent increases in taxation this year would be the first of 10 years’ worth of three percent increases called for in the Long-Term Financial Plan (LTFP). Daynes called the LTFP “a key document to guide the city for the next 10 years.”

The treasurer pointed out that tax increases from 2018-2022 had averaged only 2.8 per cent, and the money brought in was less than planned for and less than what is needed to keep up with the cost of living.

For that reason, the city, in addition to the 3 per cent increase proposed for 2023, will be collecting another 1.5 per cent from ratepayers for a dedicated capital levy. That money will be spent on capital projects like roads and road repair right across the city.

Daynes reminded the audience that there are five separate but equally important budgets that the city is responsible for funding and they include the property tax supported operating budget, capital budget and special projects budget, the user rate pay water budget and the user pay wastewater budget.

“In 2023,” Daynes said, “the city is proposing a $237 million operating budget, a capital budget of $57 million, a special projects budget of $2 million, a water/wastewater operating budget of $25 million and a water/waste water capital budget of $5 million.”

Dr. Adam Found, manager of corporate assets for the city, spoke briefly about specifics found in the capital budget.

Found was quick to point out that almost half the budget of $57 million was committed to improving roads.

“We heard loud and clear that this is something our residents want,” Found said.

“Landfill costs will be higher than usual,” Found continued, “ because of the need to construct another ‘cell’ at the Lindsay-Ops landfill which is something that will likely be needed every four to five years. Fleet and equipment costs will be larger than normal because of our efforts to catch up with the capital backlog in both public works and the fire fleet.”

Daynes then spoke to the $237 million operating budget.

“$81 million of that total is staff salaries and benefits,” Daynes began. “$50 million is transferred to external clients like child care facilities, long term care and Ontario Works. Another $44 million is paid for contracted services. $29 million is for interfunctional services. $18 million pays for materials and supplies. $10.3 million is debt and there is an additional $4.2 million in the others category.”

“$137 million is paid for through direct taxation, $62 million is covered by grants, $28 million is covered by user charges and $10 million come from other sources,” Daynes said.

Daynes broke down the $137 million covered by direct taxation into eight broad spending areas. For instance, 32 per cent of this total will be spent on public works including roads, 28 per cent will be spent on emergency services, 11 per cent on human services, 11 per cent in contributions to the capital and special projects budget, 10 per cent to community services, 4 per cent to development services, 2 per cent to engineering and corporate assets and 2 per cent to fund the library system.

CAO Taylor issued a cautionary note for the 2023 budget year, and those to come.

“There are so many new pressures and items we are attempting to combat concurrently,” Taylor said. “Inflation and increasing costs are causing delays and backlogs with city projects. We have tried to budget avoiding relying on one-time grant programs. We want to keep user fees (for city owned facilities) at a sustainable level for the community. Our asset portfolio contains a lot of aging infrastructure and we have $4 billion in valued assets. We need to keep these assets alive. We think this is a good budget that we have put in front of you and we encourage the public to get involved.

Mayor Doug Elmslie had the last word on the budget presentation sharing with the audience what is going on in other neighbouring municipalities.

“We support 200 civic services through these budgets. Other communities are looking at budgets with increases from 5 per cent to 14 per cent. Locally, 3 per cent plus 1.5 percent seems quite modest in comparison. It would be nice to be (looking at a) 0 per cent (increase) but I don’t see how that would happen,” Elmslie said.

Deliberations on the final capital budget begin February 14, while discussion of the final operating budget begin Feb. 28. All meetings will be open to the public. 

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