The budget meeting last Thursday and Friday covered a lot of ground – budgets for all departments were reviewed so staff and councillors talked about many issues and provided a lot of insight into what is being planned for 2021. For example, what’s happening because of the pandemic; what projects will go ahead; will Tourism be encouraged? As several Councillors said, it’s too early to decide whether the Beach should be open or how it should be managed but this certainly is an important subject. Although budgets decide on money allocation, Council budget decisions also point to what staff should spend their time on. Below are some of the things that Council and Staff mentioned and decided and help us understand what is likely (but not certain) to happen in this uncertain year.
Budget Meeting – Beach and Events
A future article will cover Police, Fire and a large number of other items
- Council and Staff expect that there will be no major events this year: No waterfront Festival, No Sandcastle Festival, no Movies in the Park and only virtual Canada Day celebrations (no fireworks). Others like the Highland Games and Rib Fest are not budget items but are also likely to be cancelled.
- In any event, Council debated whether there should be Beach Lifeguards. If the beach is open, smaller crowds are expected, few other beaches provide lifeguards, it’s debatable whether it helps reduce liability and there are times when there are no lifeguards anyway. Council passed a motion to cancel lifeguards for 2021 for a savings of $109K.
- A decision is needed by May first as to whether the Beach will be open so a canteen contract can be organized. It is currently planned to open beach washrooms with covid-19 rules being followed.
- The number of summer students for Victoria Hall, Tourism ambassadors and Parks and Recreation was drastically reduced. I lost count but instead of maybe 20 in a normal year, it would be more like 3 or 4. The cost of some summer students would be covered by grants but not all.
- There is no budget for the Concert Hall in 2021 – their staff have been re-assigned. However, Councillor Nicole Beatty moved that the Concert Hall be re-opened once it is safe to do so but that it then be operated on a cost-recovery basis. (Download Nicole’s motion here). Although it has never been operated this way – there has been in effect a subsidy – Nicole’s motion passed.
- It is currently planned to re-open the CCC in February. The CCC net budget for 2021 is $1.234M compared to the 2020 budget of $1.237M.
- Communications asked for $32K for Advertising and Promotion but this was reduced to $25K. The fee of $12K for maintenance of “Bang the Table” Software which is used for “Engage Cobourg” was approved despite a question that Councillor Darling asked. Given the low number using it, “Is it worth it?”
- The West Boardwalk badly needs work – supporting wood is rotting. Council was concerned with some of the plans suggested that could cost close to $1M although minimal plans would be much less. The Parks and Recreation Advisory committee also recommended “the creation of a natural system stewardship plan prior to any redesign of the West Boardwalk”. Director Laurie Wills asked that if such a plan were created it should be done in parallel and not in advance. In the end, Council approved $60k to include design work plus the creation of a natural system stewardship plan. A public meeting would be included in the process. See the Staff report here for more detail.
It was a long meeting – two full days. There will be more on this in the next few days.