Budget deliberations get lively at City Hall

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KAWARTHA LAKES- A day long, marathon session of 2018 Capital Budget deliberations at City Hall in Lindsay got a little lively at times but there’s some good news for taxpayers in the end.

A projected 4.5 % tax increase has so far been whittled down to 3.5%. Savings were found in a number of areas. The OPP contract came in at $170,000 less than projected, Ontario Works is now fully funded by the Provincial government saving the municipality almost $400,000 and staff hopes to save money on hydro to the tune of about $289,000.

“I’m thrilled that we’re bringing forward a Capital Budget that not only meets our needs for 2018 and beyond, but also sets the 2018 tax increase on track to be well below the previously forecasted 4.5%. Council is to be commended for adopting a budget that completely aligns with our 10 Year Financial Plan. It allows us to prudently and effectively deliver services and plan for the future.” said Chief Administrative Officer Ron Taylor.

Council also rejected the proposal to put digital water meters in homes in Bobcaygeon and Lindsay. The proposal would have saved about $65,000 a year but the cost was estimated to be $1.4 million.

Council has budgeted about $490,000 for repairs and renovations to The Victoria Room at City Hall and Council Chambers. Councillor Brian Junkin was concerned about the costs associated with redesigning council chambers. ” The reconstruction is the part I’m having the issue with because we just reconstructed it a couple of years ago and I thought we’d solved the accessibility issues in council chambers.” Junkin remarked.

Director Craig Shanks explained the additional measures required. “It’s a combination, its plaster repair and work in deficiencies in the facility due to some of the leaking that the past two years projects have corrected, and will also address accessibility issues for this room (council chambers) and the Victoria Room, as wll as a reconfiguration to be prepared for the incoming council of a lesser size.”

The repairs at city hall were ultimately left in the budget.

Near the end of the day an exchange between the Mayor and Councillor Breadner got a little testy. Councillor Breadner was asking questions about the costs of new windows in the Service Ontario building when he said he thought someone was smirking at him while he was speaking. The Mayor then asked who Breadner thought was smirking at him. When asked about it Wednesday Councillor Breadner told Kawartha 411 he didn’t mean anyone in particular. “I just felt like sometimes there’s not a seriousness taken to some of the items on budget and that’s all I was meaning, there wasn’t a specific person I was trying to point out when I said that.”

The budget includes $245,000 for design and public consultation on Beach Park in Bobcaygeon. Councillor Junkin took issue with the costs earmarked for the project. “This year was last year for the trailer park and I guess staff has suggested that $245,000 to remove servicing from the area for trailers which would be water and hydro and another $200,000 to hold public consultation and designs and  tender.” Junkin remarked. “My thought is until we hold public consultation we don’t know what we are designing and  constructing and i’m not sure why it would cost 200,000 to hold public consultation and design and construction.”

Shanks responded saying staff already has an idea what the residents are looking for so the money is basically for the design. “We have a rough cost estimate of $2million on the project. Design work is estimated at 10% of budget so that’s where $200,000 comes in,” he said.  “I’m assuming what the councillor wants is the design portion to be cut in half,  but my suggestion is that we would get very limited designs and when we finally went to construction tender, we would be all over the place and we might not be able to achieve what the budget is or we would have to ask for additional monies to complete the design work.”

That prompted a somewhat comical exchange between the Mayor and Councillor Junkin. “I’ve done some basic cost estimates and I think we can work well in 2018 with $145,000 instead of $245,000 Junkin said. To which the Mayor replied “I’m sorry did you say you’ve done basic design estimates?” leaving staff and the gallery laughing.  He continued, ” No I’m just I’m not.. this isnt a joke.” Junkin followed that with “Obviously this new sound system isn’t working that well, I said I’ve done some rough cost estimates.”

Another exchange between the Mayor and Councillor Junkin brought a few laughs and some gasps from staff and other members of council. There had been a lengthy discussion about the issue of renovating the shuttered public washrooms in downtown Fenelon Falls.  Councillor Junkin asked who was going to be repsonsible for cleaning the washrooms if council agreed to renovate them and re-open them.  The Mayor said Councillor Junkin would after the next election. Mayor Letham said he meant this as a joke and apologized to Councillor Junkin.

Council gave the go ahead to a new taxiway at the airport. The $201,500 project would include an internal roadway along with a new 1000 foot taxiway parallel to runway 13/31 to reduce the need for aircraft landing on the runway to turn around and taxi back to the runway end to exit. Councillor Dunn was opposed to the work. “We’ve got roads to fix that people use and I think we’ve got to deal with that before we start dealing with airport roads” Councillor Yeo agreed. “It seems like more of a convenience than a major safety issue, we have more important things to do rather than convenicne items. ”

But Councillor Strangway who is on the Airport Board disagreed. “The current manager from Loomex (The Peterborough Airport Management Co) is virtually begging us to make sure we get this in the budget becasue it is a safety issue.”

The City is investing $20 million in roads and bridges, including an environmental assessment for an additional bridge crossing in Fenelon Falls. Council endorsed a multi-year gravel road rehabilitation program worth $4.6 million. A further $2.9 million will go toward roads capital replacement, largely for paved roads.

“We’ve taken a big step up with this budget. Positive things happen when Council and staff work together to identify and address the issues. Staff put a solid financial plan in place and Council had the confidence to support it. It’s a win for everyone when we deal with our challenges head on. Our residents are going to see the tangible improvements taking place across our municipality,” commented Mayor Andy Letham.

The budget includes $3.3 million in across-the-board arena improvements, including new parking lots, roofing, dressing rooms, score clocks, electrical and security systems. A new ice pad will be installed in the Woodville arena at a cost of $1 million.

Mayor Letham also noted that this budget “reverses the trend of taking money out of our reserves.  We are now starting to put money back in the reserves, which is crucial to our future success. At the same time, we are taking steps to keep it affordable. The forecast looks very positive going into Operating Budget deliberations next month.”

Council will deliberate the 2018 Operating Budget on December 13 at 9am in Council Chambers, and on December 14 at 9am if required. All are welcome to attend and provide comment. OperatingBudget documents will be posted on November 10 at www.kawarthalakes.ca/budget.