Final Draft Budgets approved 5-2

Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin chaired the two-day Budget review Council meetings and hoped to reduce the levy increase impact of 6.7% to 5.3% per Council’s target. But by 4:00 pm on the second day, she expressed her frustration that Councillors kept adding amounts that cancelled any reductions. She said “we need to do better”; her comments seemed to blame councillors and Mayor Henderson then told her to “Watch your comments”! He said that they were all trying to do the right thing. When the two days’ work was complete, the budget increase was 6.3% and with a growth amount of 2.2%, the tax levy increase would be 4.1%. In a recorded vote, Suzanne and Councillor Chorley voted against approving the result of the two day meeting.  Final approval will take place at the next regular Council meeting on December 13.

Over the two days, a lot of items were discussed – both Operating and Capital as well as the Community Grants reported here on Thursday.

Here is my list of significant items:

Highlights

Organization

  • Council are committed to implementing the CAO’s recommended re-organization although some staff would be hired earlier and some later.  Hiring of the Manager of the Office of the CAO would be deferred but the Manager of Transformation would be hired. There will be no Deputy Director of Community Services with the number of managers in that Department reducing from five to four – that is,  Community Services functions of Marketing, Events and Tourism will be consolidated with the Concert Hall.
  • The Town is currently actively recruiting for two new Directors: Community Services and Planning and Development Services and hopes they will start January 1, 2022.

Major Capital

  • The Capital spending on the Harbour was approved with this timeline:
2022 2023 2024

$4,955,000
North & East Basin Walls,
Fuel Dock Basin Wall
Centre Pier

$3,545,000
East Breakwater
West Breakwater Repair

$3,603,654
East Pier Repairs & Enhancements
$4,225,000
West Breakwater Rehab

The CAO was asked to organize a plan to try to get funding from the Provincial and/or Federal Governments.

  • Councillors were surprised to hear of the need to spend $260K in 2022 and about $2M in 2024 to fix the Shoreline erosion at Monks Cove. The $260K was approved.
  • Council agreed that there should be a reserve fund to provide for Downtown parking when existing parking lots leased from private owners are developed. The plan would be a multi-storey facility on Covert Street.
  • Council approved $50K for design of a new admin building for the Campground – plus electrical upgrades. Construction would be in 2023 at an estimated $750K. There was no discussion of whether the Campground was a good idea.

Other notable items

  • Two new full-time Firefighters will be hired.
  • Brian Darling is unhappy with the over $1M cost of transit for so few riders but there were no changes made.
  • Lifeguards are once again in the budget for both Centennial pool and the beach. Council had a long debate about liability and whether lifeguards should be provided at all.  The YMCA were asked to report on what they do in a typical year. This may be reviewed again later.
  • Major events in 2022 will include Canada Day celebrations, Christmas Magic and most others but there will be only a scaled down Sand Castle Festival.
  • Plans to repurpose the Beach Canteen into enhanced washrooms are proceeding – RFPs for Food Trucks will be issued soon.
  • The Accessible dock had a budget of $30K but this did not seem enough. Council approved up to $50K but user groups could fund-raise for more if they wanted an upgrade.
  • The Marina Security Gates were approved as was the Marina electrical upgrade.
  • Staff are looking at increasing CCC fees, parking fees, Marina fees, Campground fees and others. Reports will come to Council soon.
  • Staff are working on (separate) MOUs for the Concert Band and Venture 13 partners.
  • Adam Bureau pushed to add summer students to work as Tourism Ambassadors but his motion failed – other Councillors did not want the extra cost.
  • Although a new Manager of Economic Development was approved, it was also proposed that the new hire prepare the Economic Development Strategic Plan instead of having a consultant do it.
  • The AGN budget was reduced from $175K to $150K but approved for 3 years at that amount.
  • Plans will be prepared in 2022 for both a new skateboard park as well as 3 Pickle Ball courts. Build would be in 2023.
  • There is a renewed commitment ($10K) to addressing the Opioid crisis even though the County is currently working on that. There was no discussion on what the $10K would be used for.
  • Councillor Chorley moved to increase the tree planting budget from $25k to $50K – her motion carried.
  • The suggested Outdoor Skating Rink at Sinclair Park would cost $8K but was approved subject to funds being raised by Community Donations.

Summary

  • Budgets were given preliminary approval by a vote of 5 – 2 with Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin and Councillor Emily Chorley voting against.
  • Operating Budget: $26,352,155 – a 6.3% increase over 2021. With a 2.2% growth per MPAC numbers, this translates to an increase in the tax levy of 4.1% over last year. That is, the Cobourg part of your taxes will go up 4.1% unless Councillors make a change at the last minute.
  • Capital Budget: $15,561,973 – the 2021 Capital budget was $8.4M and in 2020 it was $9.1M.

Resources

On Town Web site

Earlier Posts on Cobourg News Blog

Other Info

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28 Comments
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Kevin
1 December 2021 8:11 am

One of the biggest issues in Cobourg seems to be ‘affordable’ housing based on the many comments to various posts. I have read that some councillors have campaigned on this issue. Increasing property taxes makes home ownership more expensive. It also makes renting more expensive. Landlords can apply for above guideline rent increases. It may not be easy to complete all the paper work but for owners of multiple rental units it can be worth it. Tenants do not have to pay a rent increase, they can move. But where will they go? This is better for landlords as rents can then be increased even more to new tenants. During a pandemic, with record federal deficits, a housing shortage and the potential of large increases in food prices due to climate change (floods in B.C.) is this really the time to increase taxes? How about cutting services and the number of town employees instead? Without housing and food do most of these budget items really matter?

Taxpayer
30 November 2021 8:29 am

Congrats to all of Council and Staff. Coming off a COVID-19 Budget in 2021 to help support Taxpayers with no increase and as well as completing a full Service Delivery Review and a Organizational Review in the same year, this is a job well done. Common Sense Taxpayers realize the complexity of budgeting and the limited number of ways to fund the budget other then taxes without decreasing the level of service that we all take for granted. I believe that this is a sensible and well thought out budget in line with the cost of living increase in order to help sustain Cobourg in the upcoming year and the future to come. I will be happy to click that pay tax bill button when the time comes.

cornbread
29 November 2021 9:47 am

Couple of questions: Do we really need 2 new full time firemen? At $800,000 not including land, the Admin. Building for the Campground is a bit much…how many people are needed and how much space to admin a 5 month operation…no wonder Councillors Seguin & Chorley had negative votes

Dubious
Reply to  cornbread
29 November 2021 10:42 am

The new $800,000 admin building could be used for affordable housing or a homeless shelter in the off season. Maybe a safe injection site to fight the opioid crisis?

Informed
Reply to  Dubious
29 November 2021 7:18 pm

Give me a break

Frenchy
Reply to  cornbread
29 November 2021 7:18 pm

cornbread, Dubious, read John’s report again:
“Council approved $50K for design of a new admin building for the Campground – plus electrical upgrades. Construction would be in 2023 at an estimated $750K.”

I took it as the $800K was for the design and build of the admin building, and the electrical upgrades to the park. No?

Stewey
28 November 2021 10:01 pm

Council, led by the budget chief herself, relieved our COVID-weary selves by approving a 0.4% (next to zero) increase for 2021. It is not surprising at all that 2022 is a “make-up” budget after so many services, projects and other items were reduced, cut entirely or deferred to, you guessed it, “next year”. Well, it is now next year and they have to budget more to make up for the benefits we received from this year’s minimalist budget. Not properly funding municipal infrastructure and services in a given year(s) commonly results in a service/infrastructure deficit, thus placing more pressure on Council to impose a higher tax increase(s) in successive years to cover the shortfall. “Hashtag” sawitcoming

Gerinator
28 November 2021 9:19 pm

“Although a new Manager of Economic Development was approved, it was also proposed that the new hire prepare the Economic Development Strategic Plan instead of having a consultant do it.”
I certainly hope the hiring agents absolutely ensure that the position profile includes a heavy weighting toward the ability(ies) associated with researching, preparing and communicating this Strategic Plan.

Seth
28 November 2021 1:26 pm

The increase in our taxes is going to sting.

When many orgs are finding efficiencies, we are adding more managers and directors. The million dollars in salaries can be spent else where.

Staff are looking at increasing CCC fees, parking fees, Marina fees, Campground fees and others. Reports will come to Council soon”.
In the case of the CCC fees, again this is going to sting. You increase our taxes, then want to charge us more for the same services in the same space?

I guess I could go on, but my message to town council is:
Stop spending so much money, and stop over taxing us!

Cobourgienne
Reply to  Seth
28 November 2021 1:35 pm

The fees charged by the CCC are currently ridiculously low. Even if they doubled them, it wouldn’t “sting”.

Seth
Reply to  Cobourgienne
29 November 2021 5:37 am

Maybe the fees are ridiculously low to you. Being on a fixed income, everything adds up including CCC fees. Maybe an increase wouldn’t sting for you. Don’t assume you know my or others situation.

ALM
Reply to  Seth
29 November 2021 9:54 am

Exactly! If we want to boost healthy and active adults, seniors and children in the community we need to ensure all of these resources remain accessible no matter the SES status.

Concerned
Reply to  Cobourgienne
2 December 2021 10:48 am

That is currently the issue, revenues need to be increased but Council is afraid to increase any fees that aren’t developer fees. Parking fees and user fees would be the biggest revenue drivers outside of property taxes. You could give residents a parking pass for spring /summer and drastically increase fees for those periods as those who want to use the beautiful beach will still come if they have to pay 40-50 bucks a day for parking. Off-season when you have the electronic pay meters adjust your fees as the majority of users would be town of Cobourg citizens. User fees are extremely low and it is time for an increase. If you
don’t want your taxes to go up revenues/grants have to go up substantially or you have to cut services. Pick your poison.

Last edited 1 month ago by Concerned
Dubious
Reply to  Seth
28 November 2021 4:48 pm

Seth, you want efficiency? Council is super efficient at both wasting money on consultants and raising taxes. Is that what you meant?

Dunkirk
28 November 2021 10:57 am

Disappointing, but, as expected….and the majority of Councilors plead guilty.

Unless and until elected representatives understand and are willing to look at the rationale of having $17+mm of our $25mm that is ‘Police, Parks +General’ than we will find ourselves in an endless pursuit of spare change …

We are a beautiful, seasonal, recreational town with a growing budget problem.

A line-by-line comparison with the likes of a similar waterfront community like Collingwood is an absolute revelation. A sad exercise that the genius Dante couldn’t have wished upon the most guilty of our town’s souls….even the new ones.

Old Sailor
28 November 2021 9:11 am

Wondering how the Town is paying for the large 2022, 2023 and 2024 capital budget expenditures? Is it through new debt, drawdown of existing reserves, increases in the annual tax levies or to be determined?

Old Sailor
Reply to  John Draper
28 November 2021 9:44 am

Thanks John. For me an annual Town cash flow projection, showing all annual budgeted expenditures and annual budgeted sources of cash to fund those expenditures would be a better document for taxpayers to see. We don’t want to go down the road of our Federal governments where annual cash flow deficits are continually hidden by increasing debt burdens for future generations.

Bryan
Reply to  Old Sailor
28 November 2021 1:26 pm

Old Sailor:
The Town is a $60M business, as shown in the Town’s 2020 audited FS. There is considerable interplay between reserves, debt, Northam, Holdco, gas tax, development charges etc that affect the levy. Council and ratepayers should be shown the whole picture, not just the levy part.

Last edited 1 month ago by Bryan
Old Sailor
Reply to  Bryan
28 November 2021 3:48 pm

Bryan – I agree 100%. A consolidated picture for taxpayers which shows a projected net plus or minus for the ensuing year(s). Not just little snippets at a time with no consolidated picture.

Jennifer Darrell
28 November 2021 8:37 am

I want to once again thank John for keeping us so well informed on Council deliberations. In the absence of any daily local newspaper, and minimal reporting of Council discussions by the weekly, and with the time limitations we all face preventing us from tuning in to zoom for the Council discussions, this is an invaluable service John performs for us all with no absolutely reward. A huge thank you John.

Lyle
Reply to  Jennifer Darrell
28 November 2021 9:49 am

I think the answer to John’s success is that he reports the news unlike the newspapers/television news reporting that is usually very slanted to their political views, perhaps the town politicians should budget number for his excellency

Kathleen
Reply to  Jennifer Darrell
28 November 2021 11:36 am

John for Mayor! 😉

Leweez
27 November 2021 6:43 pm

Well, I guess it is time to pay the piper

ben
27 November 2021 6:43 pm
  • “Council agreed that there should be a reserve fund to provide for Downtown parking when existing parking lots leased from private owners are developed. The plan would be a multi-storey facility on Covert Street.”

Those with long memories would remember this:
dated 1986
“moved by Cllr Marrocco, seconded by Cllr Burd that the Town of Cobourg initiate a Downtown Parking study with the purpose of siting a Parking Garage in Covert St” This led to the completion of a Parking Study that went nowhere. The then DBIA didn’t want to lose the downtown parking for the time of construction.

I am sure that if the CAO looked hard enough she might find that consultant’s study, pull it out and update it at minimal cost.

Last edited 2 months ago by Ben
Ken Strauss
27 November 2021 3:36 pm

That is, the Cobourg part of your taxes will go up 4.1% unless Councillors make a change at the last minute.

And also assuming that your MPAC assessment increases at the same rate as is the average for Cobourg. If your assessment increases by more than average your taxes will increase by more than 4.1%.

Doug
Reply to  Ken Strauss
28 November 2021 9:19 am

I think the mathematics here is suspect. 4% of 4% equals .16 %

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Doug
28 November 2021 10:40 am

Doug, I believe that you are confusing the percentage increase in taxes with the tax increase as a percentage of the assessed value of your property.

Regardless of individual tax increases, it is unconscionable that spending is increasing by 6.2% to pay for frills — Manager of Transformation, the AGN and a new trailer park admin building. This comes at a time when many are having trouble affording the necessities. How will these unnecessary expenses help most Cobourg residents? Fortunately the election is less than a year away.