You're invited to the budget open house

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This Monday, February 11, Clearview Council will present its draft 2013 Township budget and invite the public to make their comments known. The meeting is planned to begin at 7:15 pm, immediately after the adjournment of the regular Council meeting. It will be held in the Council Chambers in Stayner.

As it now stands, the draft budget proposes to raise an additional 9.5 per cent in Township residential tax revenue.

When combined with an estimated increase of 0.15 per cent in OPP policing costs, 0.61 per cent increase in the County and 0.0 per cent increase in the School Board tax levies, the impact on the average taxpayer household is expected to be an increase of just over four per cent, or about $100. Keep in mind that this impact is on the average home in Clearview valued by the Municipal Property Assessment Board (MPAC) to be $250,750. Individual tax increases will be higher or lower depending on the assessed value of each property.

To date, in addition to several internal department staff reviews, there have been three Council Budget workshops which were open to the public. The aggregate result of these reviews is that staff-recommended savings were in part offset by Council-suggested additions, as reported in last week’s Echo article.

Overall, total additional operating budget dollars requested are up 12 per cent over last year. These are the expenses requested to run the day-to-day business of the Township, including salaries, wages, benefits, contract services, maintenance and transfers to reserves. This year the total requested is approximately $7.5 million.

The capital budget dollars requested are up 4 per cent, the largest portion going to public works and parks to improve our roads, bridges and sidewalks and upgrade our parks and arenas. The 2013 request proposed is $1.8 million.

A brief look at the proposed spending by department will help exlain where much of the proposed increases are to be spent.

More than half of the total operating dollar increases requested are in the Administration department. An additional $500,000 is requested in salary, wages, benefits and contract services. Council continues to debate the need to fund consulting fees for such things as branding, pay equity and benefit reviews as well as purchases of new support software.

The Fire Department proposes operating cost increases for two new part-time positions to assist in administration and fire prevention programs.

Public Works, the largest of the capital spending budgets, continues to do a good job holding the line on annual expense and capital increases while at the same time managing to increase transfers to reserves for a combined tax increase requested of 1.5 per cent.

Proposed spending increases of $169,000 in capital budget projects in the Parks and Recreation department are planned either to repair aging facilities such as repaving the Creemore arena parking lot or to place funds into reserve to eventually replace such items as the rink boards.

Planning department expense dollars requested have decreased over last year.

Water and Wastewater department operating and capital projects are fully supported by planned increases in user fees. Though they do contribute to the rising cost of home ownership, they do not contribute to the proposed taxation revenues increases.

I have asked that resident-requested Creemore local improvements including the addition of two new crossing guards on County Road 9 at Jardine Crescent and on Collingwood Street, upgrades to the Jardine Park playground and a review of improvements to the arena lobby, washrooms and kitchen be added to the budget.

Historically, tax levies have risen about 8 per cent annually, four times the rate of inflation. The economic outlook for our region is for lower residential growth for the next three years. A reduction in the increase in taxes would be both timely and fiscally responsible.

I encourage you to attend the public meeting, and make your own comments know on Monday night.

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