Council has now had their first public Budget meeting for 2019 and although the gallery had only one citizen and there was only one media person (me), it was an interesting session. Maybe a good number were watching online since the sound now works well (as of 10:30 am Feb 6, there were 55 views). This first meeting reviewed budget requests from General Government Services, Planning and Development and Economic Development departments. The goal for the budget increase for 2019 has been set at 2% – that compares to the recent 2.3% increase approved by the County. The meeting format was per Committee of the Whole rules so a Q & A Forum was allowed but no-one took advantage of it. There were no decisions made at the meeting but a number of things were “announced”.
A good part of the increase will go to salaries since non-union employees were given a 1.9% increase.
General Government Services
Includes costs of Council itself, Finance, Clerks, Communication and IT departments.
- Mayor John Henderson wants $20K for “Citizen Engagement” – that’s $10K for software for online engagement and $10K for a monthly newsletter.
- An extra person will be hired in the communications department
- The IT department is concerned about the possibility of a hack – e.g. someone holding the town to ransom as has happened at other Ontario municipalities (e.g. Wasaga Beach and Midland last fall). $75K is wanted to spend on a package to hopefully prevent such a thing. John Henderson spoke in favour of the IT department preparing a strategic plan (finally) after such a thing had been denied in budget planning for the last 4 years.
- A new IP (Internet) based phone system is proposed for the Town which would save $4K/month but cost $80,000. It would also provide improved features.
- The roof for Dressler House needs replacing and to restore the existing roof would cost $100K. This building has Heritage designation so should stay owned by the Town although any action may have to wait for completion of the Cultural plan.
- The Victoria Square project is still on hold pending grants. The cost would be $1.5M with $500K coming from each of the Town, Province and Federal Governments. So far the Federal contribution has been least forthcoming and with an election this year, a grant from them is not expected this year.
Planning and Development Services
- The long postponed Zoning By-Law review is now proceeding.
- Per the Heritage Master Plan recommendation 1c, a new Heritage District is being planned for implementation over the next 3 years. Described as “Corktown, John St., Walton St., Henry St.”
- Once again $150K would be allocated for the Community Improvement program (C.I.P.)
- The Building permits department is self-sustaining – fees equal or exceed their $410K budget. In 2018, income was $734K due to the TVM development on Hibernia and ongoing work by FSD Pharma (the Cannabis company at the old Kraft plant). Fees exceeding the budget go into a reserve to fund years with a shortfall.
Economic Development Services
- With Economic Development Officer Wendy Gibson retiring early in 2019, CAO Stephen Peacock asked that in their Strategic Planning Exercise on Feb 12 and 13, Council should decide on the direction that Economic Development should take. This will determine what to do about a replacement for Wendy.
- The net cost to the Town of the Venture 13 initiative in 2019 will be $197K
- Miriam Mutton recently asked Council to improve signage for Venture 13; Stephen Peacock said she was “absolutely correct” and money is in the budget to correct this (offset by a Federal grant).
Chair Suzanne Séguin commented that because a new Strategic Plan could impact actions in 2019, the budget will not be completed until after the Strategic Planning Session.
- Budget Documents
- County Eliminates Bulky Waste Voucher – 31 Jan 2019 – Includes report on County budget
- Final Victoria Square Design 28 April 2017
- Heritage Master Plan – on Town’s web site