Clearview dips into reserves to weather ‘price storm’
After two rounds of budget workshops Clearview council has heard from all departments and is now tasked with sculpting the budget into something they can take to a public meeting next month.
“I think it’s going to be a tight budget year,” said CAO John Ferguson in his opening remarks. “I think we have to be cognizant of what we have to do as a municipality to meet our servicing needs but also to keep within our financial wherewithal.”
Council met for its first budget workshop Nov. 8 when township staff presented a $20-million budget, reflecting a 10.8 per cent increase to the Clearview portion of the taxes collected. By the end of the Nov. 15 meeting that number was down to 6.48 per cent.
When factoring in estimated taxes collected on behalf of Ontario Provincial Police (-0.04 per cent), County of Simcoe (five per cent), and the Simcoe County District School Board (zero per cent), the increase goes down to 4.85 per cent, which translates to an increase of $182 for the average household assessed at $315,000.
Staff got the increase down by taking $450,000 out of taxation and dipping into reserves, including the cost of winter sand and salt from the winter event reserve.
“We’re gambling against Mother Nature,” said Mayor Doug Measures. The $100,000 reserve is meant as a buffer in the case of a large winter storm event but treasurer Kelly McDonald pitched it as an option due to the current “price storm.”
The municipality, like others, is facing large price increases on all materials.
The parks and recreation department alone has pushed $1,253,000 in spending to future years because the budgeted amounts are no longer reflective of the actual costs.
Although council expressed an interest in maintaining a contribution to the community hall reserve, all councillors agreed to put a ‘pause’ on proceeding with architectural and engineering plans for the next four community halls slated for accessibility renovations.
Measures raised the questions saying he had been assured by the ministry that there would be no fines or penalties if municipalities failed to complete accessibility renovations by the 2025 deadline set out by the province.
He said he agrees with the goal of making all public facilities accessible. “What disappoints me is that we were being held with a gun over our head asking us, demanding us, that we have to do this work by 2025… After all this work that we’ve done that the ministry isn’t putting the same emphasis on the importance of AODA renovations that our community has,” said Measures. “I think we need to really put the pause on this.”
He noted there are at least four other accessible facilities in the township. “Council, it’s a difficult one because we have been moving in this direction and we made the right decision, I firmly believe that, and it’s not easy to put the brakes on something that’s really important,” said Measures.
“Since the government has not come forward with funding [I agree we should] sit with the other four at this point in time until the government puts their hands forward,” said Councillor Robert Walker, who is a member of the accessibility committee.
The 2024 budget includes $17,433,695 in operating expenses and $2,711,600 in capital costs.
“We do have room for improvement,” said McDonald. “When you come back to the council chambers on Dec. 5, that’s your chance to recommend, delete, add, change and prepare your budget that will be presented to the public on Dec. 11.”
Council got its first look at the staff-proposed budget on Nov. 8, hearing from the administration department, Clearview Public Library, Planning and Building departments, the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority (NVCA) and Creemore BIA before a second workshop on Nov. 15 to hear presentations from public works, fire and emergency services and parks and recreation.
Council will take another look at the budget at a third workshop on Dec. 5 before taking the council-proposed budget at a public meeting Dec. 11.
NVCA – 2024 proposed levy of $164,299, an increase of $20,479
CAO Doug Hevenor noted staff requested a $200,000 increase to the levy but during deliberations, the NVCA board decided to increase that to $400,000, with the additional $200,000 to hire two new staff for planning and regulations department in order to keep up with workloads and regulatory timelines.
The NVCA jurisdiction covers 100 per cent (554 km2) of Clearview Township.
• Coordinated volunteer tree planting of approximately 8,000 seedlings and seeded native grasslands.
• Implemented water quality and habitat improvement projects through the NVCA Healthy Waters Grant Incentive Program.
• Controlled and harvested Phragmites along the Georgian Bay Shoreline.
• Completed a total of 400m of stream bank stabilization and aquatic habitat restoration at two properties on Sheldon Creek in Adjala-Tosorontio. An additional 200m of stream bank was stabilized on the Pine River in Mulmur.
• Completed a pilot stream bank stabilization and habitat improvement project on the Mad River at Carruthers Memorial Park in Avening working with the Friends of the Mad River and Clearview Township.
Administration – $2,465,426
• Transfer to Reserves – Increase transfer to the Affordable Seniors Housing Reserve – $100,000. For council discussion on whether or not council wants to continue with that program.
• Increase to Collingwood General Marine Hospital reserve – $50,000 (final increase)
• Contribution to the new Georgian Triangle Humane Society Centre –$22,500.
• Council Chambers Accessibility Renovation $284,109 minus a $99,109 Enabling Accessibility Fund Grant.
Treasurer Kelly McDonald said she is “begging” for an increase for the understaffed IT department. Staff is requesting the addition of a full-time employee member to the IT department of one. This will allow for an assistant ($80,000) to take care of the departmental duties while allowing the manager to focus on security.
Staff is proposing to budget for the addition of a community economic development officer ($110,540) to be considered by council at a future date. COA John Ferguson said there is enough in an economic development reserve to fund a two-year contract. He said the new hire would have to work “delicately” with other departments and would have to be filled by a strong person with inter-personal skills.
Bylaw department – $267,238
• $10,000 be added to the Property Standards Consulting budget to deal with garbage, debris, derelict vehicles/trailers left on township property
and roadways when it cannot be ascertained who the debris belongs to, it cannot be billed back to a specific property. Two council members have requested an additional bylaw enforcement officer be added in 2024 to address zoning issues and weekend coverage
Library – $1,216,685
• 2025 Creemore Branch Addition ($400,000 in Development Charges Schedule), coupled with updates to the building in general (washrooms, flooring, windows).
• Add $2,050 to expand library Outreach Program from two community halls to four.
Planning – $812,280
Director Amy Cann is proposing the addition of a new full-time staff member ($112,000) be added to the planning department to meet demand and improve customer service.
“At this time development applications are more complex,” said Cann. “The restraints on properties are more significant and our legislative, as you’ve seen in the series of reports that we’ve brought in the last 18 months, that legislative framework is changing and it keeps us on our toes.”
She said Bill 19’s legislated timelines has put the township’s revenue at risk.
“If we don’t meet our legislated timelines, the development community/the applicant is entitled to a refund of their application fee.”
Fire – $2,290,384
Fire Chief Scott Davison said calls for service have increased by 100 calls over three years and training hours have increased to meet upcoming mandatory firefighter certification. As a result, he presented a budget reflecting a $74,000 increase to salary, wages and benefits.
The budget also includes equipment and the scheduled replacement of the 2009 Kenworth Pumper 3.
Public works – $9,352,104
With by far the biggest budget in the municipality, public works includes water and sewer servicing, roads and bridges, sidewalks, stormwater management.
Deputy director Dan Perreault outlined $88-million in infrastructure projects in Stayner and $34-million in Creemore (including improvements to the sewage treatment plant), all of which are fully or partially paid for by developers looking to capitalize on increased water and sewer capacity and get their projects going. Other water and sewer project costs are built into user fees and do not impact taxation.
The department is looking at a 10 per cent increase in the cost of gravel, and increases in the cost of sand due to high fuel costs.
Riverside Drive tops the capital road projects list at $4-million.
The departments is asking for $113,800 to hire an operations technologist.
Council members have asked staff to review benefits for council members, exploring the possibility for compensation for phone and mileage, in addition to health benefits.