KAWARTHA LAKES-The City will have to cut service levels or increase taxes by more than 6%. That’s the decision facing City council as they pour over the 2024 draft budget released today.
Council was aiming to cap the tax increase for homeowners in Kawartha Lakes at 3%, however in order to keep service levels close to today’s standards it would require a 4.56% increase in the operating budget levy.
“We challenged departments as well as corporate services to demonstrate what a 3% increase would look like relative to the financial plan at least against forecast targets.” CAO Ron Taylor told council. “That 4.5% on the operating side of the levy is actually, in my opinion, a true minimal number to maintain current service levels. So the task now is to go through the budget and look at potentially, do we need to change service levels, reprioritize, defer, whatever the case may be.”
There is also another 1.5% increase in the capital levy according to the draft budget prepared by staff. This is a designated levy for asset management and infrastructure.
“This is just our first draft.” Councillor Tracy Richardson told Kawartha 411 news. “We’ve got to start somewhere.”
In 2021 the enumerated population of the City of Kawartha Lakes was 79,247 which is an increase of 5.19% from 2016. That’s in line with the provincial average of 5.8%. The City is currently working on a plan for the provincial growth target of 100,000 residents by 2031.
The Capital budget is a plan focused on investing in constructing new or maintaining existing infrastructure assets in good repair. The tax-supported draft capital budget for 2024 is $72,344,000. That’s up from $58,113,000 in 2023 and 57.083,000 in 2022. Of that budget $33,158,000 is for roads, $24,707,000 facilities and siteworks, $14,371,060 for fleet equipment and $110,000 for other expenses. The draft budget also included $2,044,463 for special projects such as downtown revitalization projects, IT strategy, rail trail signage and various studies.
The Operating Budget is much larger at $255,567,954. That is up from $239,718,794 in 2023. 26% is for public works, 25% for human services, 24% for police, fire and EMS and the balance is for libraries, engineering services etc. The money comes from various sources including $143,863,170 from taxation, $ 75,056,508 from federal and provincial grants, $4,600,000 interest and almost $1 million from donations and “other”.
The City creates an operating budget to plan for day-to-day service delivery such as winter snow plowing, fire services, road repair, parks maintenance and more.
Council faces an approximately $2 million shortfall.
“What’s driving this substantively in my opinion is the current inflationary environment we are in,” explained Taylor. “We are seeing double-digit cost increases as a percentage. So as we set out to see a 3% and a 1.5 % year over year it’s a lofty goal and collectively you have that balancing act.”
There is another special council meeting to go over the budget and make revisions and alterations on October 31 at 9:30am. Multiple special council meetings will be held before the final budget is adopted.