The second draft budget was reviewed by Council at Special Budget meeting at 1pm on January 25th. This updated version of the 2024 municipal budget presented at that meeting reflected a 3.9% tax increase, down from the first draft projected increase of 7.9%.
The 2nd draft budget projection reflected a $469,915 drop in expenses from the first draft version, achieved through a $45,003 decrease in Operating Budget estimates across all municipal departments and $424,912 of decreases in the Capital Budget, partly achieved by the reduction of the transfer to the Asset Replacement Reserve (ARR) from 100% of the audited depreciation value of 2022 to 94% of this value. This fund is a statutory requirement and used to pay for big ticket capital purchases which are paid for over time. Cuts made during the afternoon budget session reduced the budget ask by another $23,300, bringing the potential rate increase down to 3.6%.
Two items which could further affect this rate were deferred for further investigation. One is a proposed $15,000 expense to enter into an agreement with Northumberland Humane Society to provide impounding services for dogs wandering at large to support our Animal Control officer. The township has not had a drop off location these animals since the contract for this service with the Peterborough Humane Society was severed by the organization after the township declined to provide a $50,000 donation towards the construction of their new facility. The second deferred expense is a proposed $30,000 for Data Analyst services currently listed in the Committees of Council Budget to support the new Sustainability Advisory Committee and the new Accessibility Advisory Committee. Staff will be looking for alternative ways to obtain these services that reduce these expenses.
Council approved the transfer of funds for the splash pad beside the CMCC from a reserve fund to the capital expenditure account to increase the likelihood that this feature will be installed this year. This water feature has been on the capital budget wish list for Parks and Recreation since it was removed from the CMCC project due to cost overruns in the main building. At that time, the infrastructure had already been installed. The township has current quotes for the installation of the facility for budgeting purposes, but the project has not yet been tendered.
Several members of the public attended the evening budget meeting to provide comments and ask questions. One resident recommended that the township find a way to make the budget documents more easily understood. Another asked that long term capital project lists be available for each department.
Grant funding that becomes available from time to time was also discussed. The timing of these grant opportunities is unpredictable and their application periods are notoriously short, so grant applications from municipalities tend to be generic and opportunistic to broaden the range of eligible projects. In 2020, the township received approval for an Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) grant to develop a community hub on the old arena property. At the time, no decisions on how that property would be utilized in the future had been made. The most specific aspect of the request was to help fund public, accessible outdoor washrooms, a need which remains.
Having decided that the building will be demolished, the township will be moving forward to develop plans on how best to utilize the property as part of the third stage of the Parks and Recreation Master Plan. Staff are now working on a scope change request to determine if the grant funds can still be deployed at this location. While these requests are common, the approval process is expected to take as long as four months.
The final budget will be approved at the regular Council meeting on February 20th. KG