Third Council meeting on Budget Requests

On Thursday, 17 December, Deputy Director of Community Services Teresa Behan presented her proposed budget for 2021 and included significant budget cuts to make up for expected reduced revenue in 2021.  Because of Covid-19, assumptions were made about when activity would return to normal.  The budget assumed the Beach would reopen, that the Concert Hall would stay closed, the CCC would have drastic reduction is usage – especially in the first half of the year – the Waterfront Festival would not happen (Canada Day not determined), the Sandcastle Festival would be virtual and promotion of Tourism would be reduced.  Teresa suggested how the loss of revenue could be mitigated with deferred hiring and other reductions in cost.  Her presentation (see links below) included details of the dollar amounts for revenue and cost reductions.

Summary/Highlights

For more detail see Teresa’s full presentation but here are some highlights.  (File photo of Teresa.at right)

Teresa Behan, Deputy Director Community Services
Teresa Behan, Deputy Director Community Services

Beach and Harbour

  • Beach and splashpad open – no mention of Canteen
  • Beach and Centennial Pool lifeguards planned
  • Marina and Trailer park to resume operation at full capacity
  • Sandcastle Festival would be virtual only
  • Reduction in special events
  • Adult playground to proceed to prevent loss of $25K grant – cost to Town $10K
  • Fewer Movies in the Park – supported by sponsors

Cobourg Community Centre

  • CCC Revenue expected to be $450K less. Revenue shortfall is predicted until April, gradual increase over the summer and then back to full capacity starting in September through to December.  Total cost goes from $1.237M in 2020 budget to $1.404M in 2021 budget
  • Defer hiring of CCC related staff to partially offset loss of revenue
  • CCC Canteen to be closed for 2021
  • Defer hiring of Recreation & Culture Manager until 2022

Other

  • Concert Hall will remain closed for 2021. Three staff have been re-assigned to other jobs.
  • Reduction in spending on Tourism promotion – e.g. No Tourism guide in 2021
  • Two fewer summer students to be hired
  • Hanging baskets to be installed in 2021
  • Management of Santa Claus Parade taken on from Lions – this event expected in 2021
  • Christmas Magic (Lights) would continue
  • More money transferred to reserves per recommendation in KPMG Report

Police Budget

In the same session, Police also presented their budget but gave very few details since Council has no authority to trim the budget – that’s done by the Police Services Board.  Instead they spent most of their time in front of Council severely criticizing the performance of the WSIB (Workplace Safety and Insurance Board).  Download that presentation here. But Board Chair Dean Pepper did say that the total Police budget would be $6.2M which represented a 3.71% increase from 2020.

What is the “Target”?

Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin has asked for a target budget increase of 0 to 1%.  Because growth is currently estimated (by MPAC) to be 1%, my math says that budgets can be 2% higher and result in a levy (tax) increase of 1%.  But the target applies to the overall budget – so some budgets (like the Police at 3.7%) could be higher which means that others must be lower.

Disconnect

There’s a disconnect on public expectations of what the three budget meetings were about.  To staff they are their chance to request their 2021 budget – as Laurie Wills said, her request was what she truly believed is required plus projects as directed by Council.  Generally staff asked for what they thought was necessary and then expect that Council will decide priorities and make any cut backs for them.  However, it seems that taxpayers communicated to Council that they expect the proposed  budgets to have an increase of no more than the target set by the Deputy Mayor.   That is, the proposals should be at the Target level.

Next Steps

On December 22, the draft budget will be put online for Public Review and Feedback.  Then on January 21, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Council will review the entire budget and presumably decide on cutbacks. If more time is needed, a follow-up meeting will be held January 22 at 10:00 am. Final approval is scheduled for a meeting on February 16.

Links

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14 Comments
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Gerinator
19 December 2020 1:05 pm

Anybody know what % the CPS proposed budget of 6.2M$ is of the proposed Total Town Budget @ the 1% mark?

cornbread
19 December 2020 9:46 am

Too much “Smoke & Mirrors” in this town when it comes to the police and a few other departments like Venture 13 in the town budget & expenses. Get the OPP and look at Volunteer Fire Dept. similar to the set-up in Port Hope. Could Venture 13 survive on its own or is this just another burden like the CCC on town taxpayers?

Kyle
Reply to  cornbread
19 December 2020 5:38 pm

A line by line report of Cobourg Police Service Board expenses would be quite the read. If it wasn’t for the secret honey pot of the criminal record checks CPS would have been replaced years ago. Why is this revenue not returned to Town coffers to lower costs? I see the Board Members have lots of free bling.

Easterender
18 December 2020 6:34 pm

Police Services budget to increase almost 4%. Why? Whatever for?
I wonder when the public will be able to comment about this.

Frenchy
Reply to  Easterender
18 December 2020 8:00 pm

Hey Eastender, I’ll comment on this now.
The Cobourg Police Service is awash with cash courtesy of their business unit. They didn’t pay for the renovations over at Venture13 because they are now getting free rent until that (approx) $1.7 Million gets used up. That means that you and me borrowed the money from them to renovate the place to their liking. Yup, Cobourg taxpayers paid for that reno, not the CPS. Don’t let them or the Venture13 gang tell you any different.
If they want a 4% increase for whatever, let them pay for it out of Cobourg’s biggest slush fund. They spend their (our?) cash with little to no oversight.

SW Buyer
Reply to  Frenchy
18 December 2020 8:43 pm

Hey Frenchy.
I agree with you in principal, but I think your numbers are off a bit.
My understanding is that the cops paid for the CCB (criminal check business) renovations (about $700K) at the V13 building and loaned Northam (the Town) about $900K to help pay for the remaining V13 renovations. The “loan” is being repaid in the form of prepaid rent which is amortized over a number of years (number undisclosed).

The problem is the lack of departmental accounting and reporting which would show the “rent” expense in the CCB’s budget and actual P&L. Similarly, the rent revenue would also show in Northam’s accounts.

The actual “rent” amounts and number of years has not been disclosed, leading to some speculation.

As for the Cops 4% increase, Council can only reject the budget in total and send it back to the CPSB (Cobourg Police Services Board) for revision. If the revised budget is rejected by Council or the CPSB refuses to make changes, the matter would go to arbitration which historically has gone in the cops favour.

I suggest that you present your police budget concerns to the CPSB. You could also ask about the use of the CCB net profit reserve and what statutes (if any) govern this.

Kyle
Reply to  SW Buyer
20 December 2020 12:31 pm

Council also has the option to replace the three Board members it has control over. They might think differently if they were about to loose their big bonus money and perks for just being bobbleheads on the Wendy & Dean Board.

SW Buyer
Reply to  Kyle
20 December 2020 1:12 pm

Kyle,

Interesting alternative solution.
You wrote “replace the three Board members it has control over” Do you mean that these board members are Council puppets and will di Council’s bidding as instructed? Or that these “independent” board members are appointed by Council and therefore serve at the pleasure of Council?
As a pragmatic point, it would be difficult to get the required votes to remove the Mayor and Clr from the board. The M and Clr would not be able to vote (conflict of interest) so a 3 of 5 vote would be needed to remove them.

The 2022 municipal elections are fast approaching and will provide an opportunity for corrective action.

Frenchy
Reply to  SW Buyer
20 December 2020 1:35 pm

Well SW Buyer, it was my understanding that when the town and the Venture13 gang were selling this grand idea to Cobourg taxpayers that the CPS was putting in $1.7 million for upgrades and renos to the second floor, and were to be paying rent as soon as they moved in. Same with CFDC when they moved in. Ian now tells us that any money we have received from CPS was for utilities and that the CFDC is in the same boat. He also now tells us that the money the CPS put up will be treated as rent paid in advance for who knows how long. That original $1.7 mil sure sounds like a loan to me.
Did the CPS biz unit ever pay rent at the police station on King St.?
Good deal for them. For us… not so much.

Last edited 5 months ago by Frenchy
SW Buyer
Reply to  Frenchy
20 December 2020 5:24 pm

Agree. The whole V13 story seems a bit (dare I say it) shady. Ian needs to publish a clear accounting of the V13-CCB-CFDC-Northam transactions
The Town’s inter-department accounting needs some enhancements.

greengrass
Reply to  SW Buyer
28 December 2020 6:59 am

Don’t see any Cops waying in on this discussion?

Sandpiper
Reply to  Easterender
19 December 2020 9:46 am

they have to keep hiring as a Lot of the officers are on light duty and WSIB Comp
that s the Why question Don’t tell me its PTSD in Cobourg

Informed
Reply to  Sandpiper
19 December 2020 12:58 pm

Your comment…”Don’t tell me its PTSD in Cobourg.” Probably the most callous remark I’ve read.

Liz Taylor
Reply to  Informed
19 December 2020 1:42 pm

Informed – at least he wasn’t making fun of a commenter’s name! As a certain person was doing just a subject or two ago.

Last edited 5 months ago by Liz Taylor