KAWARTHA LAKES- Councillors in the City of Kawartha Lakes got a first look at what the budget may look like for 2018 and how it will effect your pocketbook.
At a special council meeting on Thursday City staff proposed a tax increase of 4.5% per year for four years and increases of 3% a year for two years after that. Those increases along with an almost 8% increase last year would equate to a 30% tax hike over ten years. That had some councillors concerned. Councillor Isaac Breadner and John Pollard both expressed concern about the increasing financial pressure on constituents. Mayor Andy Letham implied they couldn’t have their cake and eat it too. ” Council has chosen not to reduce service levels so this is where we are”
Adam Found, Manager of Corporate Assets said “Frankly this is what’s required to keep those service levels.”
Council began a review of service levels in 2015. The Core Services Review looked at every department within the city looking for ways to cut costs and save money. At the time Mayor Letham said “We need to work towards a business model that is both sustainable and responsible to our residents, our businesses and our staff.”
As a result of the review, some local libraries were closed. Council also voted to reduce the number of fire halls throughout the city. The review recommended closing six single pad arenas by 2026-Manvers, Emily-Omemee, Ops, Little Britain, Oakwood and Woodville. However council voted to keep the status quo with arenas and is looking at building at least one new facility.
Taxes aren’t the only thing that might be going up, staff is proposing a 2% inflationary increase for all utility accounts as well.
WSIB continues to put pressure on the budget according to the treasury department. Carolyn Daynes, the City Treasurer says Presumptive Legislation for firefighters is costing the city more money every year. The legislation means that if a firefighter is diagnosed with cancer it is presumed to have been caused by their employment and thus is covered by WSIB. The legislation added Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to frame work as well. Relocating the Human Services office and updating the city’s fleet of vehicles will all add pressure to the financial according to staff.
The city has a 10 million dollar deficit and officials say the tax increase could help narrow that to 3 million in one year. A few months ago they took our a 25 million dollar debenture to help address the shortfall. Over the next ten years they plan on drawing from it and then building it back up.
There are two more public budget meetings planned for September 19th and 20th at City Hall.