After a long meeting, Council approved the budget for 2019 with an increase in overall spending of 4%. But because of growth in the Town (more properties paying taxes), the increase in your taxes will be 2%. So if your property had an MPAC valuation increase the same as the average for the Town, the Town’s portion of your taxes will increase by 2% from last year. But in the process of managing the budget, Councillors made some decisions – or maybe they were more like statements – about priorities and direction. Some issues were covered under the heading Community Grants as reported yesterday (e.g. AGN, Santa Parade) but also discussed were IT (Information Technology) planning, Accessible Transit, Affordable Housing, Council Salaries, the Travel Lift (again!) and briefly, Advertising for Tourism, the East Pier and the Memorial Arena.
Mayor John Henderson said that after deferring the idea for 8 years, he was not willing to defer any longer the need for an IT Strategic Plan to set direction. The budget for 2019 includes spending on software to provide immediate protection but there are no specific dollars for a Strategic plan. After discussion it was decided that the $40,000 required could come from IT reserves. The budget does include $10,000 for the “Bang the Table” software which will provide for John’s promised Mayor’s interactive web site.
Adam Bureau said that there was an immediate need for accessible transit (Wheels) to operate past the current end of service around 7:45 pm and extend it to 11:00 pm 7 days a week. He estimated the cost at $8,000 per month although other options such as an upcoming accessible taxi (possibly subsidized) were also discussed. John Henderson said he was working with Mayor Sanderson from Port Hope and a third party on something that would satisfy this need and asked to delay a move until May 1st. After a long discussion, council agreed to use $8,000 a month from the Federal Gas Tax to fund an extension per Adam’s request. This would be in place from April 1st until John’s solution is available.
Nicole Beatty moved that $250,000 be added to the budget to support Affordable Housing such as proposed by Trinity and Balder (see links below). Chair Suzanne Séguin said that this addition would need to be balanced by corresponding cuts but the addition was approved. A “Housing Support Policy” is scheduled to be presented to Council at their April 1st meeting so decisions on deployment of the funding will be taken then. A representative of Trinity said that the $250,000 was not enough.
To help pay for this, the CIP program was cut from $150,000 to $75,000. A proposal to delete it totally (at least for a year) was shot down because CIP helps fund downtown housing. Other budget changes, including moving amounts to funding from sources other than tax, meant that the overall budget was not increased. (See also next item).
Additional money was saved by deferring hiring a replacement for the Economic Development manager for several months. In any event, this position is subject to a possible restructuring.
There was a long discussion about the need for a large budget to promote tourism. In the end, the $120,000 budget item for Advertising and Promotions was reduced to $100,000. Part of the Tourism budget will be spent on improving the Tourism web site which is very slow to load and “needs structural improvements”.
Because the future of the Memorial arena is being debated, the $30,000 in the Capital budget for a “brine header” will be deferred.
The annual amount in the Engineering budget for “pre-Engineering” ($37,500 for 2019) was deleted.
In a presentation to Council, Paul Pagnuelo said that despite the increase in salaries for this year, they still were not enough. When the motion for the current salaries was approved in 2018, it included a requirement that they be reviewed after 12 months. Town Clerk Brent Larmer confirmed that he was on track to bring a report to Council at a meeting in May.
The proposed budget included $20,000 for engineering to define requirements for the Travel lift including the lift well. Emily Chorley (supported by Nicole Beatty and Suzanne Séguin) wanted no money spent until there was a public meeting on the subject. John Henderson said that we first need to know what’s happening at the East Pier. Brian Darling said that the Engineering would help understand exactly what was proposed and would therefore be best before the Public meeting. This position was supported by Director Dean Hustwick who pointed out that the Lift was recommended by the Waterfront Master plan, that the lift would be funded by the Marina and not taxes and that this project was integrated with other Harbour projects like the East Pier, “pedestrian walkway, beach and headland, naturalization, pathway fingers, and ecology garden pathway”. Council decided that none of money for the proposed Engineering for these projects should be spent until after their required public meetings.
The proposed budget had amounts for engineering for 2019 and forecast amounts for 2020:
|2019 – engineering
|2020 – implementation
All require public meetings and now no money will be spent until after the public meetings.
A number of other less significant items were discussed but all large spending items will come before Council before they happen.
- Surprise Approval of Larger Council Salary Increases – 22 May 2018
- Trinity Housing request – 17 Jan 2019
- Balder Corporation request – 13 Feb 2019
- Transit Information for Cobourg
- Waterfront Master Plan – Part 1.
- Appendices to report – Note that the justification for the Marina expansion and travel lift is in Appendix I.
- Budget documents – hosted on Town Portal