Council approves 2020 budget

The target for the tax increase was 1.9% but it looked like it was going to be 2.7% because of a couple of last minute additions.  The biggest addition of $105K was because Brian Darling wanted higher wages for the Town’s non-union employees and he won support for that (see links below) but there were also other items for a total of $200K more than the target.  But after Deputy mayor Suzanne Séguin discussed  this with Treasurer Ian Davey, it was decided that there were enough funds in the Holdco reserve to allocate another $200K to the 2020 budget.  This means that, in the end, the target for an increase of taxes of 1.9% has been met.

To help explain the budget, an infographic has been prepared summarizing its complexities – below are extracts from that or if you prefer, download the complete document from the links below.

Total Budget (millions)

Operating $29.46
Capital $8.98
Debt Repayment $0.65
Total $39.09

Sources of revenue (millions)

Tax levy $24.69
Operating Revenues $5.12
Internal Revenue $4.04
Debt $2.05
Federal Funds $1.62
Provincial Funds $0.94
Other $0.63

Capital Projects

Capital Projects 2020

These were summarized here but the Town provided an even shorter summary of significant projects.

The biggest is the Kerr Street extension – the request for tender has already been issued with 4 bids received.

Year to year comparison

2020 Levy Tax Increase

The table shows what’s happened since 2016 – the actual tax increase has stayed less than 2% despite inflation. 

If you multiply the “Lower-Tier Tax Rate” by your MPAC valuation you get the amount of Tax the Town will charge you per year.  The total bill will also include the as yet undecided County and School Board amounts.

Council approved the budget as described here with no further debate.

Links and Notes

Note 1: The 1.9% increase in the tax levy means that IF (a big if) your MPAC valuation increased by the average amount for the Town (2.1%), then the Town’s portion of your tax bill will be 1.9% higher than last year.  The additional 1% of revenue comes from the fact that there are more properties being taxed.

Note 2:  Also passed at the Council meeting was a By-Law authorizing billing taxpayers for one third of their 2019 taxes.  The final tax levy amount requires that the County pass their budget (probably approx. 3%) and the Province decide on the School board amount. 

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18 February 2020 12:45 pm

Toronto – house prices are much higher there. For a brand new home you will have to mortgage your first born child. For a crummy place you will have to mortgage your wife. Therefore the lower tax rate on so much higher real estate prices is no bargoon. That is why so many are buying elsewhere despite higher mill rate you get a much larger newer house in the surrounding areas.

7 February 2020 9:44 am

residential tax rate in Cobourg is 1.46%. For the sake of transparency, lets do a comparison with port hope, Peterborough, Belleville, Kingston, Bowmanville, toronto,Oshawa, Hamilton. does anyone know ?

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Marc
7 February 2020 11:24 am

You might find of interest.

I may have arithmetic errors but the total tax including education, municipal, county and region for 2019 are:
Belleville 1.65%, Peterborough 1.41%, Port Hope 1.57%, Cobourg 1.46%, Kingston 1.33%, Clarington 1.17%, Orangeville, 1.34%, Toronto 0.61%, Wasaga Beach 0.98%. Corrections appreciated! Note that special services such as garbage collection have additional charges in some but not all towns. To discourage rental apartment buildings the MURB rates are typically much higher than the residential rates reported above.

Reply to  Ken Strauss
8 February 2020 1:27 pm

Thanks, ken, this is interesting info which should be read by all Cobourg property tax payors.
Ratios of Real Estate value to property taxes IN – town show we are paying an excessive amount for services received, compared to other jurisdictions in Ontario. The Cobourg tax payor tolerance for supporting a bloated “County”
cost structure is truly amazing.
Lets hope we can shake up the current slate of politicians.

5 February 2020 7:31 pm

Anyone. What does “Note 2: Also passed at the Council meeting was a By-Law authorizing billing taxpayers for one third of their 2019 taxes.” mean?

John Draper
Reply to  Gerinator
5 February 2020 8:14 pm

If you get the Town’s Tax bills, you know they come in three parts with the first one being about now and the other two later in the year. The first one is issued before the Town knows what the full tax amount is so it’s an interim amount. So what is done is that they bill one third of the amount that was billed last year. The next two bills will be for the full amount less that interim amount. But to send out any tax bill, a by-law is needed – that’s what was passed on Monday.

Reply to  John Draper
7 February 2020 10:09 pm

Thanks John.

5 February 2020 6:27 pm

“But after Deputy mayor Suzanne Séguin discussed this with Treasurer Ian Davey, it was decided that there were enough funds in the Holdco reserve to allocate another $200K to the 2020 budget. This means that, in the end, the target for an increase of taxes of 1.9% has been met.”

Shouldn’t that be a decision made by the whole council in debate, not just the DM and the interim CAO?
If there is a good reason to increase the budget by $200K, have DM Séguin add it to the budget and justify that decision to the taxpayers instead of hiding behind a slush fund just so she could say she met the 1.9% target.

Holdco Slush Fund… the gift that keeps on giving.

Canuck Patriot
4 February 2020 4:17 pm

Raiding the reserves is not the answer to foolish overspending.

I would caution anyone who thinks that this year’s budget was a classic example of special interests chomping down at the public trough to hang on to their wallets. Next year the chickens will come home to roost.

The simple truth is this. The cupboard is bare, taxpayers are crying “uncle” and in an ugly mood trying to balance their own books and Cobourg Council needs to slam the lid on the bottomless money pit of “feel good” virtue spending.

Is there any truth to the rumour that two members of Council are auditioning to fill the vacancy for the Riding’s provincial Liberal MPP candidate? Their political spending habits and lack of fiscal prudence make them excellent candidates.

Reply to  Canuck Patriot
4 February 2020 6:27 pm

The 250k appeal walmart won justifys a one time withdrawl of reserves. Perhaps the reserve fund can be increased over the next few years since the Town was caught off guard in this instance.

Reply to  Informed
6 February 2020 10:27 am

If my information is fairly correct, most of any reserve funds in Cobourg comes from the result of taxpayers somehow paying more for some type of service or fee in this town. This town has to learn how to say “NO” to all the nice to but don’t need to projects. Do we really need the Kerr St. extension? The money has to come from somewhere/service the debt on 2.7 million.

4 February 2020 3:20 pm

Why are Cobourg residents paying significantly more than other Ontario jurisdictions
when you also include County Taxes ??

michael hutson
4 February 2020 3:15 pm

Nobody has explained why when you add in County taxes, Cobourg residents are paying
a lot higher than other Ontario jurisdictions ???

Ken Strauss
Reply to  michael hutson
4 February 2020 3:33 pm

Part of the problem is that with a two-tier municipality such as Cobourg + Northumberland most jobs are done by two departments rather than by only one.

Cobourg is represented on County Council by our Mayor. He never reports to Cobourg Council nor asks for direction from Cobourg Council nor was he even elected. When wearing a Santa suit it is far easier to say YES than NO to spending. What is there not to like about having someone else pay?

Deborah O'Connor
Reply to  Ken Strauss
5 February 2020 4:11 pm

You are poorly informed Mr. Strauss. The County’s jobs are different than those performed by the lower tiers. The Mayors at County Council and staff make sure of that. Would you prefer to see the County level making decisions and carrying out functions for the lower tiers too? That’s regional government, a whole other way to do it. Durham is an example of that and there are people on both sides of that debate.

Diana Storen
Reply to  Deborah O'Connor
5 February 2020 4:16 pm

Well said, as always, Deborah.

Reply to  Diana Storen
6 February 2020 8:50 am

Yes Thats why Taxes are cheaper in Durham for a comparably priced / Valued property check it out

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Deborah O'Connor
5 February 2020 5:20 pm

Ms. O’Connor I would like to be better informed! How does County HR differ from Cobourg HR? How does County Finance Department differ from Cobourg Finance Department? How does County CAO differ from Cobourg CAO? How does County Economic Development differ from Cobourg Economic Development? How does County Engineering differ from Cobourg Engineering? How does County Tourism differ from Cobourg Tourism? How does County Archives differ from Cobourg Archives? (Trick question: the County archivist also does the work for Cobourg.) We have two groups of staff doing very similar jobs and both groups are receiving high salaries and benefits and pensions hence high taxes for everyone in Cobourg.

Canuck Patriot
Reply to  Ken Strauss
5 February 2020 5:53 pm

Not only do we have too much duplication and unnecessary high salary costs with our municipal government structure, to rub a little salt in an open wound, we pay our elected Cobourg Councillors, who are charged with important policy decisions, less than minimum wage.

Regional government and amalgamation aren’t the answer. Both simply inflate the size of the bureaucracy and higher salaries as empires grow.

Reply to  Canuck Patriot
5 February 2020 6:06 pm

How much do we pay our County Councillors?

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Frenchy
5 February 2020 6:13 pm

Frenchy, I’m glad that you asked! $9,678 for serving on County Council or $36,727 when serving as Warden.

Reply to  Ken Strauss
5 February 2020 10:55 pm

Has Canuck Patriot figured out if that is above or below minimum wage?

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Canuck Patriot
5 February 2020 6:12 pm

Canuck Patriot neglected to mention further salt. Our Councillors are paid less than minimum wage but our Mayor’s income is increased by $9,678 for serving on County Council or $36,727 more when he is also Warden for the County. Considering Mayor’s salary + Warden’s salary + board honourariums, the total for our Mayor is almost $100k/year. Yet another reason for our high taxes!

Reply to  Ken Strauss
5 February 2020 6:16 pm

How much would you do the job for?

Canuck Patriot
Reply to  Informed
5 February 2020 6:26 pm

Councillors given their job responsibilities and hours spent each week on council business should get a salary in the $50,000 range. It would certainly change the calibre of candidates and attract more people with a business background.

Reply to  Canuck Patriot
5 February 2020 6:39 pm

Canuck Patriot,
It definitely could change the caliber of candidates. Might attract more people in it for the $ rather than the opportunity for community service.
How has paying big bucks at the Provincial and Federal level worked out insofar as attracting a higher level of candidates?
You like our Premier or PM for example?

Reply to  Informed
5 February 2020 6:49 pm


Reply to  Ken Strauss
6 February 2020 9:37 am

Mr Strauss,
Surely with your business acumen you would realise that if you eliminate duplication of services the workload stays the same. In other words if the County HR (or any other duplicate service you mentioned) does lower tier HR work employees will remain at the same number. So the wage bill stays the same, no lower taxes for Cobourg.

The only way to lower costs would be to establish Regional Government and I can imagine your howls of protest sat that being the first to scream, “Bigger Government – bad!”

Ken Strauss
Reply to  ben
6 February 2020 10:54 am

Eliminate 7 CAOs & 7 Directors of everything and there’s a couple of million off the top.

Ben, you wrote the above this morning so you recognize the savings from reducing the number of department heads. I’m curious why you also wrote the following in your other post this morning:

So the wage bill stays the same, no lower taxes for Cobourg.

Regional government should result in savings but as long as unions and politicians are involved it is unlikely to have any good effects and will have many bad ones. Consider post-amalgamation Toronto.

Reply to  Ken Strauss
6 February 2020 12:31 pm

Because as Paul said in a rebuttal you need deputies, but overall you do tend to flatten out by removing middle management.

My idea of amalgamation would not be popular as it would be based on communities of interest not previous municipal boundaries and no local Pol is going to abolish their fiefdoms. Also in order to maintain local democracy we would need more local councillors not less – again another non starter. But I could deliver a TED talk on the merits of a one tier Northumberland.

Paul Pagnuelo
Reply to  ben
6 February 2020 1:16 pm

I would love, if the opportunity should arise in the near future, to be part of a public discussion on the subject. Respectful, informed debate is healthy for democracy and can only make for better governance.

Reply to  Ken Strauss
10 February 2020 7:46 pm

Exactly Ken. Amalgamation of Toronto was taken over by the Union and happily adopted by the admin and politicians of the day because it benefited them – instead of amalgamation it created non-amalgamation with many fiefdoms within. In the coming years the departments and number of employees mushroomed just like the Councillors’ offices currently when their number was reduced by the Ford government.

Reply to  Ken Strauss
19 February 2020 9:56 pm

Ken, you are forgetting about all the duplication that is at Lakefront Utilities as well, I would like to hear your opinion on selling our hydro utility and shifting the water portion of LUSI to under the Town’s umbrella

Reply to  Deborah O'Connor
5 February 2020 6:18 pm

Deborah O’Connor,
I would assume that you are on the side of amalgamation, n’est pas?

Reply to  Frenchy
6 February 2020 9:41 am

Aha the big “A” question – of course some are in favour. Not speaking for Deborah but I’m in for it.

Eliminate 7 CAOs & 7 Directors of everything and there’s a couple of million off the top.

Reply to  ben
6 February 2020 10:37 am

And the one person standing gets peanuts for a salary,right?

Paul Pagnuelo
Reply to  ben
6 February 2020 11:21 am

In theory it sounds great. In practice, the empirical evidence is the exact opposite occurs.

Instead of 7 CAOs, you end up with a super CAO and seven deputies, etc. Salaries all rise to the highest pre-amalgamation level plus extra because now the size of government has grown. The bureaucracy grows exponentially and the unions become more powerful and demanding. Democracy takes a hit with fewer politicians now covering a larger geographical base.

Amalgamation does not work. I can tell you first hand from the Victoria County amalgamation that created the disastrous megacity of Kawartha Lakes. The smaller municipalities ended up paying for the expensive tastes of the larger municipality. Taxes skyrocketed.

Don’t wish for something that you will later regret.

Deborah O'Connor
Reply to  ben
6 February 2020 9:29 pm

I agree, as usual.