Minor operational cuts kick-off budget talks

SOUTH DUNDAS – December 19 and 20th South Dundas council was deliberating a $7.5 million draft budget.

This is the earliest the Municipality of South Dundas has ever held budget deliberations, which is something council wanted in hopes of getting capital projects to tender sooner in order to elicit more favourable pricing.

Treasurer Sarah McMillan said that when the needs of each department were initially complied, a 45 per cent tax increase would have been needed to fulfill all the requests.

Staff worked together to get the budget down to this draft form which proposes raising a net levy of $7.1 million on top of the $255,000 worth of growth.

The draft budget, although unlikely to be approved as is, would have an impact of an $85.34 or 8.3 per cent increase for the average residential assessment.

Day one of budget deliberations focused on an examination of operational expenses resulting only in minimal cuts.

One of the first cuts made by council was the 1.7 per cent cost of living increase to their own remuneration that they receive on an annual basis.

Councillor Archie Mellan suggested the cut to a zero increase and council agreed.

“I have no problem with that,” said South Dundas councillor Donnie Lewis. “I’m not here for the money. I’m here because this is what I want to do.” This resulted in a savings of $4,500.

The council mileage budget was also cut back to $1,000 from $3,000 and capped at $1,000. Council agreed that is sufficient because only one member of council (Mellan) claims mileage even though they are entitled to the claim.

South Dundas deputy mayor Kirsten Gardner suggested that there should be a small cut to the office supply budget as well. “Everyone has to give a little,” said Gardner.

South Dundas clerk Brenda Brunt who oversees that budget said that they could certainly give a little bit, so that $60,000 budget was cut back to $55,000

The municipal cost of living wage increase was dropped from 1.7 per cent to 1.5 per cent resulting in a savings of about $6,500.

These small cuts early on in the process, while setting the tone for deliberations, won’t have a significant impact on the final budget numbers because to decrease that tax rate by one per cent $71,251 has to be cut.

The mayor and council weren’t prepared on day one to set a target to strive for wanting to work through the process first.

“But I will say that I don’t think zero is realistic for this year,” said Byvelds, pointing out that the municipality has made more investments in economic development, tourism and doctor recruitment. “Sometimes you have to spend more money to make things work,” said Byvelds.

Also this year they were hit with unanticipated landfill costs with the closure of the Williamsburg site.

For 2020 council and staff decided to keep that department’s budget status quo to allow the new landfill supervisor, once that position is filled, to have his/her own input.

The mayor additionally pointed out that $50,000 was put in the 2020 budget as a start to fulfilling Dundas Manor’s request to South Dundas for $500,000.

“I think that’s a commitment we should stick to one way or another,” said Byvelds.

On day one, councillor Mellan noted that the Taylor Road bridge was removed from the draft budget. Mellan was adamant that regardless of which bridge money is spent on, there needs to be money set aside to start working on bridges.

Council agreed with allocating funds for bridges, although they were not certain Taylor Road bridge should be a priority.

A new bridge reserve will be established with a first allocation of $150,000.

At the end of day one, the net result of negotiations actually amounted to an additional one per cent tax rate increase on top of the 8.3 per cent proposed.

Day two of budget deliberations focused on the capital budget which is where there is the most potential for taxation savings.

The final budget numbers will not be available until early in the new year.

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