Budget Highlights and more

Cobourg Council is continuing with its review of budget submissions by its various departments.  There’s a lot of detail but buried in the minutiae are some projects that many citizens want to know about.  For example, CCC costs, Marina profit, the subsidy for transit, profit from parking, Marina profit, campground profits and the estimated cost to fix the East Pier.  In addition, we get an insight to how departments are managed and some minor snippets of information that would not otherwise yet be public. So before you say “boring”, you might find this report has lots of stuff you want to know.  The departments covered in this report are the Works Department, managed by Director Laurie Wills and the Parks, Culture and Tourism Departments  – grouped under “Community Services” and managed by Director Dean Hustwick.

Note that in budget discussions, four numbers were provided: 2017 actual, 2018 budget, 2018 actual and 2019 proposed budget. In the interest of simplicity, unless otherwise specified, 2019 numbers are shown and rounded to the nearest thousand dollars.

One change in presentation from previous years is that management salaries and costs are allocated to the sub-departments in accordance with how much time they spend on them.  This is helpful in knowing the true cost of activities.  This report does not distinguish between operating and capital expenses although the budget keeps them quite separate.

Only highlights are listed – sorry. See Links below to access links to the full budget submissions. 

Works Department

Director of Works Laurie Wills
Director of Works Laurie Wills

Major items managed:  Roads, Sewers, Snow clearing, Transit, Parking.

Transit costs the Town $1M; of that, $365K is recovered although only $157K is from fares, most of the rest is from a provincial grant.  The net cost of transit to the town in 2019 will be $717K.

Parking Enforcement:  $615K revenue from fees and fines and a cost of $480K for a net profit of $135K

Snow Clearing: $181K – assumes an average winter.

Road Repairs: $93K – fixing potholes etc

Street Lamps: Street lights are beginning to fail and there are no more induction lamp replacements available. The Town will be switching to LED lamps which requires all fixtures to be replaced as well as lamps.  These will be changed as existing lamps fail.  Cost in 2019: $330K

Roads, water and sewers – this department obviously does a lot of work on these but in the interest of keeping this report reasonably short (believe it or not), these items are not covered here.

Parks and Recreation Department

Miscellaneous Revenue. Apart from the CCC, Marina etc there is $141K in revenue: $22K from the Beach Canteen, $100K for share of parking revenue, $12K in user fees (e.g. pavilion), $5K from the DBIA for flower baskets and $2K from beach rentals.

Parks Admin expenditure is $1.6M – mostly people costs

Parks Maintenance $240K – includes refurbishing bandshell ($15K) and some repairs of children’s waterpark ($6K)

Lifeguards $215K for lifeguards and $25K for two more lifeguard chairs.

Marina Revenue $760K – includes transient fees $145K, seasonal fees $280K, fuel sales $190K, storage $35K, $30K lift-in/out fees. $40K share of parking fees.

Marina Expenses $760K – includes $256K payroll, $152K gasoline, lift-in/out $24K, TFR to reserves (Profit) $99K.

Travel Lift and more – Paul Gauthier, Marina Manager, pointed to the Waterfront master Plan and asked for $45K to do engineering studies on “pedestrian walkway, beach and headland, naturalization, pathway fingers, ecology garden pathway and lift in/out facilities” with a forecast implementation in 2020 for $519K.  Suzanne Séguin said that since these items had not yet been approved by Council, as a minimum, each item must be shown separately so there can be a debate at the budget approval meeting on March 14.  Paul said that given the transition of work from the Yacht club to the Town, without a boat lift there would be no boat storage and marina users would eventually go elsewhere.  It’s not clear why the existing use of a crane etc cannot be continued. (More here in section Lift-in/Lift Out of Marina Boats)

Dredging – Revenue will be $147K thanks in part to a contract with Prince Edward County for $97K. Expenses will be $158K for a net cost to the Town of $11K.  There is currently $20K in reserves for eventual replacement of the dredger.

Campground – Revenue $301K – 80% from transient trailers with Expenses of $193K for a net profit to the Town of $108K

Harbour – with the Marina, Campground and Dredger separated out, the Harbour costs the Town $192K.  Note that Marina and Campground “profits” add up to slightly more than this number.

East Pier the budget request was for $800k with the statement: “The engineering condition assessment provided several options. This option is to design and implement structural repairs to accommodate limited light vehicle access and parking along with limited pathways, railings, turf and trees.”  John Henderson said that before any decision was made, he wanted to see the consultant’s report. Council have not yet seen this (nor has the public).

Culture

Concert Hall – Revenue is $169K and expenses $360K – Dean Hustwick said he was working on improving this.

Cobourg Community Centre The revenue budget for 2019 is expected to be $1.34M with expenditures $2.36M for a net cost of $1.02M.  But Deputy Director Teresa Behan emphasized that the 2018 budget was for a slightly higher net cost yet the actual net cost was $822K ($200K savings) so perhaps the same feat can be performed in 2019. Director Hustwick repeated a statement he made in 2016 that “typical public agencies subsidize their operations by 71%” but Cobourg’s number is 43%.

Arenas – although money was asked for repairs to the other two older arenas, John Henderson asked for a full review of them before doing piecemeal repairs – especially the Memorial arena.

Tourism

The budget includes $114K for Advertising and Promotions. Dean Hustwick said that this included an upgrade for the Tourism web site, a Sports and Recreation Leisure Playbook and work on Social media.

Suzanne was concerned about costs and said that we “need to bring some creative work in house”.

There was a suggestion to locate the Concert Hall Box Office in the Lobby of Victoria Hall.  It would also function as a Visitor information centre.  The design would be heritage style and located on the west side.  Cost would be $50K.  John Henderson wanted a review of options before deciding.

Summary

There is a lot more detail available but it will all come up for final review at the Budget approval meeting on March 14 scheduled for 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.  Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin, who is responsible for the Town’s budget preparation, has made it known that preparation for the 2020 budget will start much earlier with initial meetings in September.  There will then be a reasonable chance that budgets would be approved before any spending starts on January 1st.

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Flora

Marina Expenses:There was no payment to the Marina Reserve Fund in the Parks and Rec Report. Don’t they have one?

Frenchy

$22K from the Beach Canteen projected for 2019. That’s a big leap from $8,850 in 2018.
Wait! $8,850?! Wasn’t the deal that we were guaranteed $20,000 or 50% of the profits, which ever was greater? What’s up with the $8,850?
Come to think of it, what’s up with the figures $17,490 (2018 budget) and $15,929 (2017 YTD)?
Where’s the minimum $20K from each of the last 2 years?

E Reid

Re comments on Concert Hall, revenue vs expenses and shortfall of 191K. The Sweetwater concert series for 2019 was officially cancelled a week ago and money refunded to patrons with no explanation. This series had been going for 14+ years and had full attendance for every concert which would therefore indicate a successful venture. Why cancel an event at the concert hall which appears to generate much needed revenue? Needless to say, this is also a huge disappointment to the concert goers. Why not stay with a program that works – let’s not try to reinvent the wheel.

Ken Strauss

Thanks John; that is an excellent summary of many of the important items. Without commenting on the value of the expense to the average Cobourg resident, it is useful to compare the relative amounts of some of the significant costs:

Grant to the Art Gallery of Northumberland: $250K
Snow Clearing: $181K
Road Repairs: $93K
Bus service: $717K
Lifeguards: $215K + $25K for chairs
Concert Hall $191K
Tourism advertising: $114K

Do most think that, relatively speaking, these costs reflect the benefits to local taxpayers?

gerinator

Sorry Ken but don’t see how Snow Clearing and Road Repairs don’t add up to hard benefits for local taxpayers.

Deborah OConnor

Ditto for public transit and service for disabled. People depend on these.

Ken Strauss

Yes but the $1M spent on transit benefits only a few residents. The average bus ride costs taxpayers about $10. Would Uber or something similar be cheaper and with better results? It is working in other towns.

Durka

It wouldn’t be cheaper for those who depend on it. How many low income seniors, or whoever, have smart phones and a data plan? In addition to that the ride would simply cost a lot more.

Not suprising the CTA takes a selfish stance on transit.

Ken Strauss

Cobourg’s new bus tracking service depends on smart phones so who does that benefit?

The taxpayers could provide a direct subsidy for the needy and still save on the current operating costs. There is no reason that an Uber sort of service could not be dispatched using normal phones. How does the service in Innisfil and Belleville work?

Fact Checker

Where does it say that the CTA takes this “selfish” stance? Mr. Strauss does not say that he speaks for the CTA on this issue, therefore his position is his, not the CTA’s.
Mayor Henderson and DM Seguin are both members of Rotary. Is it your position that when they speak, they speak for Rotary?
Councillor Darling is a member of a fire-fighters group. Do you maintain that whenever he speaks, he is representing the views of fire-fighters?

Most people have a number of interests. You need to respect that fact and not assume people are one dimensional. They have thoughts, actions and opinions of their own as well as periodically representing specific interests.

Durka, what groups and associations do you represent when you speak? That way we’ll all know which groups to slag when we don’t agree with with your opinion.

manfred s

hey Ken, double the ridership, halve the cost per; triple it and you’ve reduced it even more, and so on. Current fares appear to be in the neighborhood of $500 per day or perhaps less than 5 cents per household per day. If the town made transit FREE, at current ridership level, that’s roughly what it would cost extra, over and above the subsidy we pay now and the benefit would be across the entire town population, and in many more ways than just the actual bus rides. Increase the ridership substantially and the total subsidy per trip would drop to pennies per trip, an exceptional bargain to say the least. Reminds me of ‘penny wise, pound foolish’ thinking on the part of the naysayers.

cornbread

This is probably how Socialism starts.

manfred s

what does that even mean? How do you define “socialism” in the context of your comparison, cornbread? OHIP, OAS, OTB, etc., etc., …

Ben

And that is a bad thing???

manfred s

unfortunately it can be, and in many cases has become so, Ben. It’s an idealistic concept that just doesn’t want to function only and continuously within the limits of its ideals, much like every other societal concept doesn’t. It’s the inevitable slow drift away from the underlying ideals that eventually renders all these concepts unworkable in their pure form. That doesn’t mean, though, that we can’t or shouldn’t continue to retain and apply some of the workable ones from all of those concepts. Finding those compromises proves to be the seemingly impossible task.

Ben

Manfred ask any Scandinavian if they want to move to the USA and see what they say. Ask any German who has benefited from the policies that Country pursued in the past twenty years how many examples do you want to look at. Unfortunately South American countries that experimented with policies that equalise economics have not done so well perhaps it is because the economic big interests have sabotaged every move. It is outrageous that the USA is leading, aiding and abetted by Canada a coup to overthrow a legitimate government elected by the people.

To put it bluntly Socialism has worked for the benefit of many people just recognise it!

Wally Keeler

“…legitimate government elected by the people.

David P. Goldman wrote, “Its strongman, Nicolas Maduro, backed by thousands of Cuban soldiers and a security service controlled by drug dealers, is offering stiff resistance to Juan Guaidó, the interim president…”
https://pjmedia.com/spengler/a-bloody-war-of-attrition-in-venezuela/

Dubious

Yes Socialism has worked for the many but to the detriment of the productive citizens that create a great country.

Ben

So you believe that society is composed of the many shirkers that penalise the productive citizens, please define the “productive citizens”?

Deborah OConnor

A society that takes care of everyone is also the basis of Christianity and most other religions worldwide. BRING IT ON!

Ken Strauss

Free rides might lower the subsidy per ride but would certainly not reduce the total subsidy that the taxpayers must fund. The benefit would certainly not be for everyone in town. Consider that New Amherst is not currently served by buses. On a personal note, I live more than a mile from the nearest bus stop.

manfred s

first off, Ken, perhaps you can give a couple of examples of non-essential publicly funded and/or subsidized services that would clear your expectation of “benefiting everyone”.
Second, yes, I already said that the free transit idea would increase the subsidy, but it’s the amount of that increase that is so minimal, maybe less than 5 cents per day on a residential tax bill. I guarantee that your subsidy of the CCC is far more than that, and it doesn’t come close to meeting your “benefiting everyone” criteria.

manfred s

… and I don’t have a dog but I still get to subsidize the dog park. That’s what you call a benefit to the greater community as a whole, just as FREE transit would be. It takes a significant shift in the mindset of our ‘car culture’ to grasp the wider benefit, Ken.

Frenchy

double the ridership, halve the cost per; triple it and you’ve reduced it even more, and so on.

Hey manfred s, if we go on far enough with your formula, can we get the cost down to zero?
You can slice baloney as thick or as thin as you want, but a pound of it still costs around $4.00.

manfred s

ok, if it’s baloney you’re talking about, same principle, the more slices, the lower the cost per slice, so not sure what you’re trying to communicate.

Frenchy

The cost of the pound of baloney doesn’t go down. The total cost to your household stays the same no matter how you slice it.

manfred s

for my final comment on your ‘misconstrual’ of my suggestion of making transit free, I made no reference to the dollar amount of the overall cost of the transit system. What I did say was that the revenue from fares was such a small part of the total cost, absorbing that amount to make it free, at the current level of ridership, would increase the existing subsidy of the system by “in the neighborhood of $500 per day or perhaps less than 5 cents per household per day”. Compared to the price of a cup of coffee, that translates into a huge benefit at an extraordinarily low cost. If that ‘nickel’ a day is hard on your budget, well ok, I can accept that, but I still think it’s a no brainer when you understand the depth and breadth of the benefit to the town as a whole. Contrast that to your share (subsidy) in operating the CCC, the Victoria concert hall, the dog park, the arenas, the tourism office, etc., etc., and that’s no baloney, my friend.

Frenchy

Here’s a guy who wants our town to give free transit rides to everybody but would have charged those riders a fee to just browse in his own store.
Still, worth a try, I guess.

manfred s

aw c’mon Frenchy, quit baiting me. Yup, that charge provided significant benefits for the buyers who chose to pay it whereas transit is not optional for some of the ridership, and furthermore, a no charge transportation system would also provide some excellent benefits to anyone and everyone who would choose to use it.

Wally Keeler

Frenchy talks a lot about baloney, manfred. On Feb 18 last, Frenchy posted this bit of phony baloney about me; “Wally says says newcomers and non-native Cobourgers don’t count.

Ken Strauss

I completely agree! IMHO road repairs and snow clearing helps everyone and is actually much less expensive than I thought. A bargain! However many of the other items mentioned seem excessive and benefit only a tiny fraction of our residents.

cornbread

Do we really need a fancy new pier for light car parking etc. etc. That’s one big expensive parking lot if you ask me. Why not just leave it as a breakwater for the harbour. Develop a parking lot elsewhere in the town and put our transit system to work (for a fee) to bring people to the beach. Helps to get cars out of downtown as well.

perplexed

Yes buy the old Hardware store site we rent it now and give a tax break to the owners as well
Its central and will service King st and the beach and marina

manfred s

no, no, no! bad idea, perplexed. There is so little opportunity left to develop the commercial sector of downtown, given the residential arc that surrounds it and prevents any contiguous expansion of it. This parcel just has to be used for such expansion, and not just the ground floor either. We should get off the pot and build a multi-level parking garage on Covert St. and develop the old Loblaws/Mr. Grocer lot for some critically needed commercial/residential space if we want the downtown to have a fighting chance to remain commercially viable into the long term future. A second compelling reason is property tax revenue which is zero if the town owns and uses it. Lease it out on an extended 99 year lease for development, effectively controlling its development and character, and still collecting property taxes.

Wally Keeler

That is the idea that works, manfred.

Jim Thomas

“…critically needed commercial/residential space…”? With all those empty or underused store fronts on King St.? More parking would make the downtown like the mall: lots of parking and empty stores, and you would still be competing with the large grocery store and decent sized “department” store and theater already at the mall.

manfred s

that’s the thing about looking ahead rather than putting out ‘spot fires’ in the moment, Jim. You have to aim ahead of a moving target. If we just keep doing in-the-moment fixed we’ll never make any meaningful progress in the greater objective. It’s not like we have plenty of other options to redevelop the downtown to create more retail/commercial/residential space when the time comes that it’s needed, and that time will come. ‘Shoulda’ is not a word we want to use or hear.