Last Thursday, Council members met for a second round of budget discussions. Director of Finance, Kimberley Pope had a new draft based on new and more accurate information for the upcoming year, but the main discussion focused on Capital Expenditures.
At the last meeting, the preliminary tax increase for the municipal portion of residential tax bills was forecasted to rise 2.25%. With updated assessment information and more accurate utility and fuel bills, the rate increase in the new draft rose to 4%. Further decisions by Council during this meeting pushed that increase to a maximum of 7.6%. The municipal portion of the ratepayer property tax bill represents roughly half of the amount, with the balance of the bill funding education. This means that a 4% increase in the municipal tax rate would bump property tax bills by only 2%. The Director did not have information on the upcoming changes to the educational portion of the tax bill.
In their analysis since the first draft budget was prepared, staff had reduced the capital expenditure budget by over $1.3 million in capital expenditures, largely by identifying expenditures on the “Need to have” list which could be moved to the “want to have” list. For example, the purchase of new radio equipment and a lawnmower were deferred until 2017, only the deposit for the new Pumper truck was included in 2016, with the remaining payment moved forward a year, the downtown decorative street lighting project was divided into 2 phases to shift some expenditures forward, and some of the work on the Frederick Street Cul-de-sac was also moved to 2017. Other savings came from the identification of other funding sources such as reserves or grant money to reduce the funds required from the township coffers. A generous donation from Millbrook Cavan Firefighters Association who will purchase UTV trailer on behalf of the township for $8,000 eliminated that item from the budget as well.
Council was asked for direction in establishing their priorities for further capital spending. After some discussion, a few items were moved ahead, based on the sentiment that the expenditures should occur sooner than later.
Suggesting that growth doesn’t always pay for itself, Deputy Mayor Fallis proposed that two items warranted immediate action to better equip the township for future planning decisions. First was a $13K investment in a growth monitoring model. Director of Planning Karen Ellis explained that this is a custom designed model prepared by a consultant to assess the impact of residential growth on items such as parkland and service requirements. A tool to monitor the financial impact of growth, not to assess the appropriateness of a specific land use, it represents a onetime expense, with township staff able to input variables to forecast infrastructure costs associated with new growth. Fallis remarked that the tool would be invaluable as the township faced increasing growth pressure with the completion of Highway 407.
The second item proposed as critical by Deputy Mayor Fallis was the initiation of a watershed plan for the township, which was first recommended in 2003 under the Oak Ridges Morraine plan. Fifty thousand dollars was set aside for this item.
Other items moved forward was a $20K expenditure to the Millbrook Revitalization Committee which would allow it to qualify for $30K in Rural Economic Development funding to improve the downtown area.
The most significant move came when Council discussed the big ticket items. The township has traditionally received roughly $3 million per year in revenue from this source. The first $1 million of this amount is funneled into asset replacement reserves. With the township now self-funding, Council moved that a maximum of $2 million of the OLG revenue be transferred in both 2016 and 2017 to a new infrastructure reserve to fund the future investment in two significant community assets: a new Fire Station and a new Community Centre. Plans are now moving forward to research construction options and identify sponsors to get this project going. For more information, the township is holding a public information evening next Monday at 7pm at the Municipal offices.