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Jun. 17, 2019 | Monday
Local News
Lord Mayor’s Column: 2019 budget
Lord Mayor Betty Disero. (Richard Harley/Niagara Now)

SUBMITTED BY LORD MAYOR BETTY DISERO.
MAYOR'S COLUMN

It has been 10 weeks since council began discussing the budget, and on Monday Feb. 11, the 2019 Operating and Capital budgets were officially approved.

I would like to thank the public, staff, and my colleagues, all of whom worked very hard to find possible reductions to the budget. A very special thank you to the Town’s finance department, led by Kyle Freeborn.

The bottom line is this: there is a 4.48 per cent increase to the Town budget. This means homeowners that have a property assessed at a value of $501,641, currently pay $5,000 in property taxes, and will see an increase on their property tax bill of $45.84.

This is the Town’s portion of the tax increase, which works out to just under one per cent or 0.92 per cent relative to your 2019 tax bill.

So how did we get here? Council first looked at revenue sources, then evaluated reserves funds, and lastly determined controllable and uncontrollable expenses. A breakdown of the approved budget will be available on the Town’s website on Feb. 28, 2019.

It is important to remember this is only the Town’s portion, the Region still has to approve their budget and the Province still has to set education rates.

Council faced several difficult decisions when looking at the budget. There was an obligation made by the previous Council (which I supported) to increase staff retention measures compounded with the increase of utility costs which brought the proposed Town budget to over 13 per cent.

The biggest savings came from reducing the Town’s contribution to capital projects and reserves. Infrastructure maintenance, such as road and sidewalk repairs, is funded predominantly by the tax levy. When the Town builds something new, ongoing maintenance costs must always be considered.

While the Town gets funds from other levels of government, or development charges, to create parks or subdivisions, the ongoing maintenance expenses comes from taxes.

The original proposal was to transfer $2.47 million from the Operating account to the Capital account. Council reduced it to $2.02 million. This by no means makes the budget sustainable, but it is a start. Over the next couple of years, we will have to build back the contribution to the Capital account or we will start to see less construction repairs.

Now, we must look to the future. Some questions have to be considered: how do we build up the reserves so we don’t have to transfer so much money from the Operating budget? How do we build in $1.1 million that is required annually to maintain existing facilities? The focus for this year’s budget was human resources; the next couple budgets have to be about infrastructure maintenance and protecting our reserves.

I am happy to report that Council approved an Audit Committee. Over the next year a group of Councillors will work with staff to review and make changes to the budget process. The group’s focus will be discussed fully at their first meeting. I look forward to an efficient budget process for the 2020 budget.

It is going to be a very busy year and an extremely busy term of Council. I am confident that in collaboration with the public and staff, Council members are up to the task.

If you have questions, concerns, or want to voice your opinion, I encourage you to reach out to myself or any of my fellow Council members. We are more than happy to speak with you about any subject because your input is valuable to our work.

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