KAWARTHA LAKES-The 2024 Budget with a 4.44% tax increase was deemed adopted on December 7, 2023 at 5pm when the Mayor’s veto period lapsed. This veto period is new with the Stong Mayor powers granted by the province.
The Operating Budget is a total of $252 million. The Capital Budget had previously been deemed adopted on November 29, 2023 based on Strong Mayor legislation.
Going into the budget cycle, the municipality was faced with a $16 million challenge, being the difference between budget pressures and the targeted 3 percent general levy increase according to long-term financial forecasts.
“This budget presented by the Mayor maintains service levels across the board, positions Kawartha Lakes for the ‘growth readiness’ phase and invests in retention and attraction of staff. While we meet the demands of this exciting time, we are also building reserves, reducing debt and addressing inflationary pressures – all with the taxpayer’s affordability at the top of our minds,” commented Beukeboom.
After deliberations, the general tax levy increase is 2.94 percent, which will result in an estimated $108 increase on residential properties in Lindsay and approximately $85 increase on properties outside Lindsay according to the City. This is based on MPAC Current Value Assessment for the average single, detached residential property in Kawartha Lakes. The 1.5 percent dedicated infrastructure levy remains a separate line item for all properties. Director Beukeboom further noted that property taxes continue to be based on 2016 MPAC values. It is forecasted that 2025 will be the earliest next reassessment year.
Mayor Elmslie offered comment on the budget:
“This is what you could call a ‘catch-up budget’. On the Capital side, we’re going to carry out $22 million in deferred projects this year. That’s across community centres, arenas, fleet and equipment. We’re addressing 220 kilometres of roads. This wouldn’t be possible without the dedicated infrastructure levy. I think we’ve done a real service to residents of Kawartha Lakes with this budget. We’ve also helped our community partners enhance the health and well-being of residents. We’re investing in the economic drivers of Kawartha Lakes. Thanks to the combined efforts of staff and Council, and despite the rising costs across many goods and services, our levy increase is below where we had hoped to land.”
Staff retention and attraction plays a role in the Operating Budget, with 28 new full-time positions being approved and representing a 2 percent increase to the total staff complement. This year is a catch-up year for staffing that was minimized during the pandemic years.
Ron Taylor, CAO, explained, “We’re meeting growth requirements in phases. We’re in the ‘growth readiness’ stage and staffing is critical now for the planning, engineering and development areas. Once the population has expanded, the City’s requirements will shift to responding to meet the needs of the growing community.”
Tracy Richardson, Deputy Mayor, added her thoughts, “We’re coming out of the pandemic, which put a lot of pressure on our staff. Now we’re looking at a huge influx of residents which will add greater responsibility to all departments. I’m in favour of investing in our staff complement and making market adjustments to right-size our workforce.”
Council heard deputations from community organizations at the November 8, 2023 public meeting on the Budget and has granted the following funds:
- Ross Memorial Hospital contribution to the capital campaign, $200,000
- Kawartha Lakes Food Source, for community garden beds, $10,000
- Kawartha Lakes Museum and Archives (KLMA), $125,000. Staff will work with KLMA to develop a Memorandum of Understanding to further refine the partnership, financial reporting and future proposed expansion.
- BGC Kawarthas, $50,000 to support youth programming.
- A new funding framework and policy will be developed by March 31, 2024 to award up to $100,000 in operational funding to not-for-profit community-based organizations actively involved in economic development.
Special Projects Budget
This $2 million budget includes a variety of projects that are one-time in nature and span multiple budget years. Many of the projects are studies and plans address growth related needs, such as the Transit Master Plan.
Water and Wastewater Budget
The user rate increase was passed at a 3 percent increase, in keeping with long-term affordability plans. This is approximately $40 to $50 per year impact on users of the system, depending on water consumption. This budget ensures the safe and effective operation and capital needs of 21 water and 6 sewer treatment systems across the municipality. The municipality has approximately 13,000 water and sewer users that finance the entire Water-wastewater Budget. The Lindsay Water Treatment Plant Expansion Environmental Assessment has been advanced to 2024 due to the acceleration of growth in Lindsay.