Cobourg’s Council meetings come in pairs. First comes the Committee of the Whole (CoW) where items are generally first raised and debated; then at the regular Council meeting comes a confirmation including any necessary by-Laws. At Monday’s regular Council meeting, Councillors revised two significant decisions from the previous CoW: 1) when deliberating the budget, what the target should be for the base levy increase and 2) whether to resume in-person Council meetings. Other motions from the CoW passed as expected. Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin said that since the target was based on the inflation rate and that this was now higher (July was 3.7%), the new target became 5.25%. However, the high target was approved with no debate other than an objection by Suzanne. Also, upon reflection, Councillors were not so sure that insisting that all councillors be at Council Chambers meetings would be the right thing to do.
The wording of the target increase motion was that it should be the inflation rate (in June it was 3.1%) plus 1.55% because of new growth (see Resources below). But Suzanne pointed out that in July inflation was 3.7%. Add the 1.55% and the total increase in budget targeted becomes 5.25%. As she said, this is a “quite an increase … and a lot to ask seniors and businesses to pay”. Because the inflation rate fluctuates through the year, Suzanne suggested that using an average rate would be better. The motion to approve the high budget target was approved 6 to 1 (Suzanne voted against).
In-Person Council Meetings
The motion approved at the CoW was for “option1” (see Resources below) which meant Councillors would be attending in person at Council Chambers or would be absent. Using Zoom for Councillors would not be allowed. Councillor Burchat had objected.
But Councillors had time to reflect on this decision and changed their mind:
- Councillor Emily Chorley wanted flexibility – she implied she would usually be there in person but might sometimes find it necessary to attend via Zoom
- Councillor Aaron Burchat said that there might be some cases where a person had Covid-19 symptoms and in the interval before a test would be negative, access to Victoria Hall would be denied. Attending via Zoom should still be allowed.
- Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin agreed that Option 2 was a better choice.
- Councillor Brian Darling was “on the fence” – he could see merit in both Options.
- Councillor Bureau suggested that attending via Zoom could be allowed only if a Councillor failed a screening test. But CAO Tracey Vaughan cautioned that we need to be “careful revealing personal Medical information”.
Councillor Burchat made a Motion to “allow for the continuation of Electronic Participation by Council Members in combination with the resumption of physical attendance of Members in Council Chambers”. This motion passed but Suzanne then moved that a final decision be deferred until the CoW on September 13. Her motion also passed.
So the current Council Zoom meetings will continue at least until then and next year’s tax increase is likely to be hefty. Why this should be when the Town’s reserves went up by an unexpected $9.6M in 2020 has not been discussed by Council.
Motion for Budget increase target. Wording is important.
WHEREAS at the Committee of the Whole Meeting on August 23, 2021, Council considered a Memo from the Director of Corporate Services regarding the 2022 Operating and Capital Budget – Municipal Levy Target;
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council direct Municipal Staff and the Cobourg Police Services Board to target a base levy increase [my emphasis] for the 2022 operating budget equal to the twelve (12) month change in the Consumer Price Index which currently is 3.1% as of June 30, 2021 plus an additional 1.55% for Assessment Growth based on the New Assessment Forecast Report as provided by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation as of June 30, 2021
Motion at CoW for In-Person Council Meetings
THAT Council receive the Staff report from the Municipal Clerk/Manager of Legislative Services for information purposes; and
FURTHER THAT Council consider returning to in-person Council Meetings in Cobourg Municipal Council Chambers in one of the following new formats:
1. That all of Council Members be physically present in Council Chambers for all Municipal Council Meetings including the Municipal Clerk and Deputy Clerk and Chief Administrative Officer in an alternative set-up to adhere to public health protocols and all other Staff, Members of the Public and Delegates/Presenters shall participate electronically through a Zoom Video Conference.
2. That Members of Council may participate in person in Council Chambers and allowing some Council members to participate by Zoom Video Conferencing, and all other Staff, Members of the Public and Delegates/Presenters shall participate electronically.
AND FURTHER THAT Council authorize all Council Advisory Committees to participate through electronic participation utilizing Zoom Video Conferencing for the remainder of the Municipal Council Term or until Council provides further direction to return to in-person meetings.
Previous reports on these items
- Council to resume in-person Meetings – 23 August 2021
- Town Reports on 2020 Financials – 29 August 2021