Council Approves Reduced Final 2022 Operating budget

As reported previously, Councillor Emily Chorley and Deputy Mayor Séguin voted against the “approved” budget increase of 6.3% over the 2021 Operating Budget since this would have meant a 4.1% net tax increase (after allowing for New Assessment Growth of 2.2%).  Not giving up, Councillor Chorley asked Treasurer Ian Davey if any savings could be found. Ian reported that about $300K in the 2021 budget had not been spent because various people were not hired as originally planned (see list in links below).  He proposed that this be put into a “Tax Rate Stabilization Reserve” which would be used to smooth out volatility in tax rates. But why not this budget? So Suzanne Séguin moved and Emily Chorley seconded an amendment to tonight’s motion to approve the 2022 operating budget to take advantage of this.

Separately, the Province announced that Cobourg would be receiving $1,395,417 from the 2022 Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (OCIF) and Ian suggested that $1,272,620 of this money be used to reduce the amount of borrowing the Town would require for the 2022 Capital Budget.

Both measures were passed unanimously and as a result, the budget increase over the 2021 Operating Budget is now 5.1% which results in a tax levy increase of 2.9% net increase (after allowing for New Assessment Growth of 2.2%).  This is within the original target set of 3.1%.  Our total taxes will include the County’s portion (latest estimate 3.11%) and the School Board’s (no word on that).

Also at tonight’s meeting, Council  gave final approval for the increase in Transit fees and the increase in fees at the Marina and Campground.  These were reported previously.

Addendum – 15 Dec 2021

The County has now approved their 2022 budget – here is the key part of their announcement:

The 2022 Budget includes a 3.11 per cent levy increase after growth, which is comprised of:

  • A base levy increase of 1.85 per cent
  • A Dedicated Infrastructure Investment of 0.85 per cent and
  • Hospital funding of 0.41%

This amounts to $63.3 million in levy funding towards the total $181.3 million County budget. 

The overall estimated impact of this increase for a median single family de­tached home in the county is approximately $38 in annual property taxation.

Links

  • Final Draft Budgets approved 5-2 – 27 Nov 2021 – includes links to Draft budgets which are now final (except for details on Capital sourcing)
  • Savings – Schedule A – list by Ian Davey of unspent money.  The budget included money to hire several employees part way through the year and replace anyone who left.  Amount is $305K.  Final amount could be higher and difference from $300K will go into Tax Rate Stabilization Reserve.  Ian also promised to work on simplifying reserves to make them simpler and easier to understand.
  • Fees for Marina and Campground to Increase – 5 December 2021
  • Transit Fares to Increase– 2 December 2021

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Frenchy
14 December 2021 6:59 pm

It’s easy for these two (Chorley & Seguin) to vote against the budget and present themselves as “tax fighter crusaders” in advance of next year’s elections when they knew the budget was going to pass regardless.
Well played.

Johanne
Reply to  Frenchy
22 December 2021 3:37 pm

“It’s easy” you’re a woman now ! Perhaps you should change your pseudonym as well. If you talk to someone coloured do you call them “blacky”. We teach French immersion in this town and there is a good proportion of French speakers. Some of us find it offensive. I don’t mind telling you I used to teach French to the Toronto police headquarters.Thank you.

Last edited 1 month ago by Johanne
Bryan
Reply to  Johanne
22 December 2021 3:52 pm

Johanne:

It’s not good and dangerous to jump to conclusions (or confusion).

As Frenchy has noted several times, this is not a pseudonym. It is his nickname and has been for many years. as he commented previously, many people know him as Frenchy and either don’t know or don’t use his given name.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Johanne
22 December 2021 7:48 pm

We teach French immersion in this town and there is a good proportion of French speakers.

According to the latest census NO Cobourg residents speak French only, only 1% spoke French as their first language and less than 10% have “knowledge” of both French and English.

Frenchy
Reply to  Johanne
22 December 2021 8:04 pm

I’m assuming you “used to teach French at the Toronto police headquarters” to the staff there (not the building).
Maybe you should all have taken lessons in English composition and grammar instead. 😜

Beach walker
14 December 2021 9:44 am

It has been a tough year and I am sure Council are doing their best. However, why do we have a trailer park in the middle of town and money allotted to run it??? A tax paying business there would serve the town better. Ok, all thumbs down at the ready 🙂

Informed
Reply to  Beach walker
14 December 2021 9:50 am

I was ready🤣

Bryan
Reply to  Beach walker
14 December 2021 10:17 am

Beach Walker:

  • the VPC is self sustaining. It cots the taxpayers nothing to run and maintain it
  • cut down all the big trees?
  • paved surface for parking
  • condos?
  • what taxpaying business?
  • if there is such high demand and good business opportunity, why hasn’t it happened already?
  • $14M+ MPAC new build value needed to provide the property taxes equal the VPC annual profit
  • about half of the “campers” are Cobourgers
  • support downtown merchants
  • sense of safety for evening promenade walkers
Last edited 1 month ago by Bryan
Ken Strauss
14 December 2021 6:59 am

Smoke and mirrors! Increase spending by 6.3% and celebrate an increase of “only” 2.9%. The new “Tax Rate Stabilization Reserve” will be empty next year. How will they spin reality then?

ben
Reply to  Ken Strauss
14 December 2021 7:25 am

OK Ken here’s the challenge from the rest of us to you. Why don’t you tell us how you would budget, what would you cut (your favourite exercise). Produce the “Cobourg Alternative Budget”.

Let’s see what a zero budget really looks like!

Kevin
Reply to  ben
14 December 2021 8:51 am

I will take a shot at that challenge. This fall there have been a number of posts related to the town and how it does business. One thing that is happening is an organizational restructuring which involves hiring new employees. First there needs to be some conditions on this. If the restructuring does not meet its intended goals there should be consequences. Firing staff who are responsible for the restructuring is one thing that can be cut. Stop building new infrastructure that is not needed. This fall trees were planted on the north side of Chapel St. The trees will be cut to build a sidewalk unless the sidewalk priority plan is to be changed. This kind of waste needs to be noticed and the people responsible held accountable. Already this snow season snow plows and salting trucks have been used on streets when they are not really needed. In part this may be related to the way the buses are being operated. The street sweeper does not really need to be used as often as it is. Reducing the frequency of street sweeping reduces labour, fuel and maintenance costs. In the private sector things happen when mistakes are made. From the posts that I have read there seems to be a trend to add services and increase staff. This trend needs to stop. Our taxes are already very high which adds to the housing problem. This unexpected ‘reduction’ in the increase of property taxes is welcome even though property taxes are still going up.

cornbread
Reply to  Kevin
14 December 2021 10:07 am

You forgot…Do we really need 2 additional firemen on the Cobourg Fire Dept?

Concerned
Reply to  cornbread
14 December 2021 3:09 pm

Yes they do because if they are short handed I don’t want a fire truck showing up at a fire and having to stand there and watch a structure burn because they don’t have enough people when they arrive on scene.

Leweez
Reply to  Concerned
14 December 2021 4:16 pm

By reading today’s latest headlines, it looks like the fire department will now need 3 new firefighters

Bryan
Reply to  Concerned
14 December 2021 5:28 pm

Concerned:
There are 14 FT and 21 PT firefighters. There are also 4 ft civilians. The 14 FT firefighters are split into 4 shifts, so 2 shifts are short one person each. The chief noted during the budget presentations that these are covered by overtime. He also noted that having the 2 new hires will not reduce overtime costs significantly. This makes no sense.

Informed
Reply to  Bryan
14 December 2021 5:47 pm

I believe the hall is manned 24/7 by full time of different ranks. All volunteers have other full time jobs and many dont even live in Town.

Bryan
Reply to  Informed
14 December 2021 5:59 pm

Informed:
Agreed: 4 shifts of 4 provides 24/7 coverage.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Informed
14 December 2021 6:06 pm

…many dont even live in Town.

Not unusual, Informed. Insofar as I know none of the town’s senior executives live in Cobourg. Obviously a reason for them to be unconcerned about Cobourg tax increases!

Last edited 1 month ago by Ken Strauss
cornbread
Reply to  Concerned
17 December 2021 10:46 am

How does Port Hope “do it” with just a Volunteer Fire Dept. and at much less cost during the year and in future slight pension cost?

Their House Insurance Rates are just about the same as Cobourg rates.

Love to hear the background on this topic.

ben
Reply to  Kevin
14 December 2021 10:39 am

Firing staff who are responsible for the restructuring is one thing that can be cut.

SO who would replace them and at the same salary – no savings

Stop building new infrastructure that is not needed

You cannot have growth without new infrastructure and besides ‘necessary’ in who’s opinion

Already this snow season snow plows and salting trucks have been used on streets when they are not really needed.

In whose opinion surely not the manager of roads who is looking after freezing roads on the lakeshore. Insurance claims go up when the roads are not salted.

The street sweeper does not really need to be used as often as it is.

Road sweeping cuts costs in the storm sewer system, less sweeping more labour needed on catch basin maintenance

But even if I accepted your suggestions just how much money would be saved in the long run?

Ken Strauss
Reply to  ben
14 December 2021 12:19 pm

Firing staff who are responsible for the restructuring is one thing that can be cut.

SO who would replace them and at the same salary – no savings

Yes, Ben, no savings but a powerful motivation for both the replacement and others to perform better.

Stop building new infrastructure that is not needed

You cannot have growth without new infrastructure

How does growth help the average Cobourg resident? Growth means more congestion, higher house prices and a generally less pleasant small town that most of us like.

Already this snow season snow plows and salting trucks have been used on streets when they are not really needed.

In whose opinion surely not the manager of roads who is looking after freezing roads on the lakeshore. Insurance claims go up when the roads are not salted.

Possibly claims increase but excessive salting is polluting, rusts vehicles and increases the need for road surface repairs.

Other obvious changes to reduce taxes with no adverse impact on Cobourg residents include: significant increase in trailer park fees, no upgrades to trailer park, eliminate AGN support, don’t hire additional managers with no clearly defined deliverables, eliminate lifeguards, eliminate support for Venture13 and…

ben
Reply to  Ken Strauss
14 December 2021 1:11 pm

But you fail to quantify any of these opinions yet never cease to say “all of it costs too much” Just how many tax points will you save by your suggestions?

Concerned
Reply to  ben
14 December 2021 2:57 pm

They complain but have no valid ideas to cut taxes. Why didn’t our treasurer recommend that this stabilization fund only be used for one time items not annual operating expenses? We now start next year at least a 3% based on the 2.2 they cut using the 300k and then a couple of new positions next year and the full cost of the new positions from this year so let’s say around 3.5% just to start the budget process. If there is no surplus the treasurer’s recommendation to council at the urging of the deputy mayor and councillor Chorley just screwed the new council and our pocket books so we just pushed the big increase off one more year. This after the treasurers underhanded comment about the police using their revenues to cut operating costs and he recommended the same thing. Maybe it’s time for a new treasurer who has some better ideas to give to leadership.

Concerned
Reply to  Ken Strauss
14 December 2021 3:16 pm

Powerful motivation? I doubt it Cobourg as indicated in budget discussions we already have an extremely difficult time attracting people. How do you know there are no clearly defined deliverables have you seen the actual job descriptions yet? Eliminate Venture13 a revenue stream there goes an increase in taxes.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Concerned
14 December 2021 4:20 pm

Indeed, Concerned, Cobourg obviously has difficulty attracting good people and the bad ones remain on the payroll for many years.

I’ve only seen the fluffy “job descriptions” for the new hires in the KPMG report. Was something with full details published and presented to Council prior to deciding to fund the new positions? They are listed as “managers” which implies staff. How will their staff be funded? How, exactly, will the new hires improve life in Cobourg?

Please explain how Venture 13 is a “revenue stream”. Does the revenue exceed the expenses? What is the source of the revenue?

Last edited 1 month ago by Ken Strauss
Frenchy
Reply to  Ken Strauss
14 December 2021 7:52 pm

Free rent for Cobourg Police Biz unit.
Wow.

Last edited 1 month ago by Frenchy
Bryan
Reply to  Frenchy
14 December 2021 8:55 pm

Frenchy,
Free rent, maybe?
The cops “loaned” Northam (the Town) $1M+ towards the renovation of the building. The cops also paid for the work on their 2nd floor facility. The “loan” has not been repaid and there is no indication of any intent to do so. The loan could be considered “prepaid” rent, but the amount and term is unknown (not determined/disclosed??).
The optics are bad.

Bryan
Reply to  Concerned
14 December 2021 5:41 pm

Concerned:
V13 is not self sufficient. It is subsidized (net of revenue) by the local taxpayers: $315.5K, $171.4K and $181.8K (12 month estimate) in 2019, 2020, 2021 respectively. The projected 2022 loss is $193K.
The V13 revenue of $26.5K is nominal. Eliminating V13 would reduce the cost of the “building” by at least half, if not more. Reporting on the V13 deliverables (job and business creation) has been minimal and my recollection is that what has been reported is significantly short of the target.

Frenchy
Reply to  Concerned
14 December 2021 6:17 pm

• Venture 13 $$ is a plus number? Revenue is one thing, profit/surplus is another.
• Has anyone ever reported on just how many Cobourg businesses or jobs have been created through Venture 13 and are still operating?
Anyone?

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Frenchy
14 December 2021 6:54 pm

Frenchy, the draft budget says that Venture 13 will cost us $192,866 in 2022. Wasting almost $200K on Venture 13 doesn’t seem like a great way to reduce taxes!

Frenchy
Reply to  Ken Strauss
14 December 2021 7:05 pm

Remember the “good ole days” when they were trying to sell Venture 13 to us and they said that having the building empty was [only] costing us $90K (which I thought sounded like a pretty high number) in their sales pitch per year?
sigh… no emoji

Last edited 1 month ago by Frenchy
Bryan
Reply to  Frenchy
14 December 2021 7:25 pm

Frenchy:
Good points.

Frenchy
Reply to  Bryan
14 December 2021 7:41 pm

I predict Venture 13 will end up being as HUGE a boondoggle to this town as “you know who”.

Last edited 1 month ago by Frenchy
Frenchy
Reply to  Frenchy
17 December 2021 1:01 pm

Crickets.

Bryan
Reply to  Kevin
14 December 2021 10:47 am

Kevin:

You wrote “…First there needs to be some conditions on this. If the restructuring does not meet its intended goals there should be consequences….” Excellent point. That is why K{MG recommended the Town develop KPIs and have staff performance reviews. Currently the Town has neither

It is unfair to the new hires to not tell them what they are responsible for….the deliverables… and the performance metrics. No KPIs, no performance reviews, no ownership, no accountability.

It is also unfair to the local taxpayers. How will they know if they are getting fair value for the wages paid?

There are a few changes I agree with.
-Hire a policy/grant writer and KPI developer reporting to the CAO
-Hire a seasoned HR manager familiar with KPIs, performance reviews and HR information systems.
-Make the clerks office (legislative services} a stand alone department reporting to the CAO

An Economic Development manager should not be hired. The Town received minimal benefit from having one previously and the “shared” position with the County was also unproductive
.
The other 10 or so positions should not be filled until there are KPIs and performance reviews
These positions should be contract (1 yr +1 yr Town option) then, if the KPIs are met, hire. This may seem harsh, but it is pretty much standard practice in the private sector, particularly for management positions.

Last edited 1 month ago by Bryan
ben
Reply to  Bryan
14 December 2021 1:14 pm

Those of us with long memories will remember just how successful coordinated economic development and a Director of Economic Development worked well for Cobourg. Unfortunately the last Director had a dubious personal life and resigned. Council in its wisdom (sarcasm) decided to cut costs and not hire another one and decided to rely on a manager with disastrous results.

Bryan
Reply to  ben
14 December 2021 2:10 pm

Ben;
I’m glad to learn that sometime in Cobourg’s past it had a productive EcDev department.
Can you recall what the deliverables were?
What KPIs would you recommend for Cobourg’s new EcDev manager?

Concerned
Reply to  Bryan
14 December 2021 3:05 pm

The HR manager is new she started about four months ago.

Concerned
Reply to  Concerned
14 December 2021 11:46 pm

Thumbs down for a factual statement? Boggles the mind sometimes…

Johanne
Reply to  Kevin
22 December 2021 1:42 pm

Make a sidewalk to go around or divide the pathway. This is not ecological but from engineering without proper knowledge again and again and all over again.🗣🗣🗣🗣🗣

Informed
Reply to  Ken Strauss
14 December 2021 9:00 am

Smoke and mirrors? Yah,kinda but its better than 4.1% . 1 year at a time.

marya
Reply to  Ken Strauss
14 December 2021 10:20 am

This is always the case with budget negotiations in that at the eleventh hour, excess money arrives from somewhere or it is found.

Concerned
Reply to  marya
14 December 2021 3:07 pm

Unfortunately pushed by the deputy mayor and councillor Chorley it’s a bad idea that will only hurt in the long run. It should only be used for one time expenses.