Senior staff provide new council with 2023 budget overview

By Kirk Winter

“Between 2018-22,” Daynes said, “total tax increases have been 14.9 percent, an average of 2.82 percent per year."

City treasurer Carolyn Daynes provided the incoming council what she called “a high-level overview” of the proposed 2023 city budget. At the same time, she also tried to address some of the complaints about Kawartha Lakes that the newly elected councillors heard on the campaign trail including that taxes are too high, the city has not made enough investment in roads, it is overstaffed, carrying too much debt and that any or all city surpluses should be used to lower taxes for residents.

“Normally we pass a budget in December,” Daynes began, “but because of the municipal election this budget will be passed in February or March of 2023. Between 2018 and 2022 the city has provided a consistent level of 200-plus services in an effective manner.”

Daynes told council that the operating budget is broken up into five “service buckets” that include roads, waste and transit, police, fire and paramedics, parks, recreation, libraries and facilities, building, planning and economic development, and children’s services, housing, long term care and Ontario Works.

She suggested to council that to continue to provide these five service silos with stable funding over the next five years, in 2023 the city would need to increase taxes by 3 per cent, an amount suggested by the previous council and included as part of the Long-Term Financial Plan.

“From 2018-2022 the capital budget invested $160 million in projects that focused on the rehabilitation, construction and acquisition of municipal assets,” Daynes said.

Those projects included the revitalization of the downtowns in Lindsay, Fenelon Falls and Omemee, the construction of the Mariposa Fire Station, Logie Street Park, the Bobcaygeon Beach Park and the reconstruction, rehabilitation or resurfacing of 680 kilometres of roads.

“Between 2018-22,” Daynes said, “total tax increases have been 14.9 percent, an average of 2.82 percent per year. Our commercial base is not very deep so our residential base is more heavily taxed. We only have 79,000 people in the city.”

Daynes said that the city has 5,300 kilometers of roads to maintain with a population density of only 26 people per square kilometre and a very low road intensity of only seven homes per lane kilometre of road.

To give context to the enormity of the city’s road responsibilities Daynes left council with a stark comparative.

“Florida one way from Kawartha Lakes is 2,300 kilometres,” Daynes said. “(Because of our low population density and low road intensity) roads are more expensive to maintain (than in some other one tier municipalities with larger populations and less space.)

“Staffing as a percentage of total operating expenses,” Daynes continued, “is on the low end at 37.5 per cent (when compared to other one tier municipalities). We are not overstaffed by any means.”

On the issue of what to do with the slim surplus the city has generated in each budget year since 2021, Daynes spoke about how that money has been put into various management reserves.

“We have had an annual surplus since 2021 of about $3 million. We have allocated that money to the asset management reserve, the fleet reserve, the fleet maintenance reserve and the Victoria Manor reserve.”

Regarding debt, Daynes was less concerned than some in the general public based on the statistics presented by her department to the incoming council.

“The province says we can have as much as 25 per cent of our total revenue as debt payments. The city is currently carrying $140 million in debt against $4 billion in assets. For a Kawartha Lakes home owner, that is the equivalent of having a $24,500 mortgage on a $700,000 home.”

“With the Long-Term Financial Plan, our goal over the next decade is to provide consistent service levels with no real increases or decreases.”

Councillor Pat Warren asked if the city had saved during the years of the pandemic.

“We received $7 to 8 million from the province (in additional funding) during that time,” Daynes said.

Mayor Doug Elmslie wanted to talk more about the potential tax increases.

“A 3 per cent increase to the budget does not necessarily translate to a 3 per cent increase to a home’s property taxes,” Elmslie asked.

Daynes told the mayor he was correct, and that many other factors also go into determining a future taxation rate.

Elmslie also asked if all of the city debt would have to be paid by Kawartha Lakes ratepayers.

“Water and wastewater debt will be paid through user fees,” Daynes said.

Councillor Ron Ashmore was very concerned that post-pandemic MPAC increases, which have been put on hold for the duration of COVID would put unrealistic burdens on local taxpayers.

“I expect it (MPAC) to be phased in by the province gradually,” Daynes said. 


  1. David Watson says:

    While I appreciate some of the challenges that are caused by the amalgamation, most particularly the establishment of a huge territory. Council and staff must realize that there are a high percentage of ratepayers that can’t absorb continued tax increases, most particularly seniors. Most of these people reside outside Lindsay. If these people are forced to sell, there isn’t accommodation for affordable housing in the municipality. Is it good city planning to tax people out of their houses? In the many years that I have resided here, every year the message is the same and taxes are increased while services in rural areas are non-existent. Perhaps a new approach and ideas is needed. When success is not realized year after year, most municipalities and corporations hire new expertise. It’s time for new blood in CEOs office. An outsider with financial experience and with new corporate management skills.

    • Andre says:

      A city isn’t a corporation. Corporations only care about money. Cities should be caring about the well-being of its citizens. You need money to accomplish this so there is balancing to be done, but CEO’s/CFO’s etc are not experts in running governments.

  2. Randy Neals says:

    Roads are one of the largest budget items for the City. About 35% is spent on roads. The City of Kawartha Lakes is now almost 80,000 people, and about 39,000 residences. There are 2,700 km of roads, with an average of 14 residences per km of road.

    The Town of Lindsay has a population of 22,367 (28% of CKL population), and about 10,300 residences (26.4% of CKL homes). You dont need to be a rocket scientist to know that within Lindsay (and similarly in Fenelon Falls, Bobcaygeon, Woodville and Omemee) there are far more than 14 residences per km, and therefore far more Tax Dollars in revenue incoming to the City per km of road.

    The cost of road maintenance is largely a function of distance of the road, speed of travel, and number of vehicles per day.
    Post amalgamation, the City of Kawartha Lakes Staff use a minimum maintenance standard, and have a category for each road.
    They dont look at how many tax dollars come in from a road, or whether some roads are a retail business district.
    For example – Kawartha Lakes Rd 36 is a higher tier classification and therefore a more important road and higher service level than Kent Street in Lindsay.

    Prior to amalgamation, each of the County, 12 Townships and 6 Towns had individual standards for road maintenance.
    The Town of Lindsay Works Dept did things differently than the Township of Carden, and that was both normal and expected.
    As an example, Lindsay had a big snowblower and it was very common to see winter operations overnight to include sidewalk plows shoving the snow out onto Kent Street, a grader scraping Kent Street into rows of snow, and the town snowblower loading snow in dump trucks to eliminate snow banks in the retail areas, making it easier for customers to access downtown businesses and buy things.

    The amalgamation of Victoria County was never about efficiency or better operations. It is a financial wealth redistribution scheme conceived by the province to create a larger pool of tax dollars from households, 26% of which are in Lindsay, and redistribute that wealth to pay for road maintenance in places in remote areas of the City where tax revenue is insufficient to pay for the service standard the City is providing. In fact, many of the least populated townships and villages in Victoria County were financially unsustainable and headed toward municipal bankruptcy had the province not forced amalgamation.

    Some people may disbelief that Lindsay is subsidizing other parts of the City.
    That’s fair – It’s a divisive concept, and since the city does not break down roads budget expenditures by area or ward, it’s not possible to prove or to disprove with data.

    The biggest improvement the new Council can make is “Area Rating” the Roads Budget, and allowing each area to once again have a standard of road maintenance that is what residents want, what they can afford, and financially self sustaining.

    Just like we have two Police forces and Area Rate the Lindsay/Ops Police costs separate from OPP costs. Or just like how streetlights are area rated, the road maintenance for Lindsay could be operated separately, area rated, and ensure that Lindsay is not subsidizing rural areas, nor are rural areas paying for a higher level of service in Lindsay.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.