Green light given to proceed with North Perth operating budget

NORTH PERTH – On March 8, budget talks continued at North Perth council for the first time since its initial visioning session in January.

Council looked at the draft operating budget for 2023, where each department in the

municipality presented their business plan and proposed operating budget. Coun. Lee Anne Andriessen, budget committee chair, explained because of the rapid growth in the municipality, there will be an impact on the budget.

“Our growth has been at a very high rate, and the growth will have an impact on our operations and capital budgets for 2023,” she said.

Deputy Treasurer Becky Belfour took time to explain the draft budget report to council and reminded them “the organizational structure went through a significant change in 2022.” This resulted in budgets being shuffled from one service area to another, either fully or partially, as well as the implementation of the new general ledger structure.

“These transitions have made it difficult to compare line from line one year to the next, which will prove to be more misleading than helpful,” stated Belfour.

Jessica McLean, manager of strategic initiatives, then presented a report to council detailing how the current staff complement is unable to meet the service delivery demands from the growing municipality.

“The work to be completed by departments and associated hours for 2023 outweigh staff capacity by varying degrees for each department,” explained McLean. “To support this work and address capacity issues, additional staff resources are proposed in the 2023 operating budget.”

The current total department capacity for the nine departments in the municipality is 260,927 hours. However, a total of 276,828 staff hours are proposed, resulting in 16,005 hours over capacity. It is proposed that 9.5 FTE positions, including two contract positions, be posted.

Every department, other than environmental services, requires at least 0.5 extra FTE positions.

Next, the almost three-hour budget talk continued where each department presented their departmental overview, business plans, and operational budgets.

The administration department’s total combined operating 2023 budget is $1,273,952.

The strategic initiative department’s total operating budget for 2023 is $500,447. The economic development department rings in at $503,300. The programing department’s program administration combined operating budget was $494,409. Children services’ operating budget breaks even for 2023, and $41,160 is allocated for the aquatic programs operating budget.

The corporate services department combined total operating budget is $17,539,196.

Development and protective services department building and planning will have $6,494 net impact on the taxpayer.

The fire operating budget is $1,644,426 and bylaw and police are $2,897,652.

The facilities department’s operating budget is $1,945,317. The cemetery operating budget is $46,300, and parks and trails operating budget is $668,863.

Public works department general operating budget is $6,295,100. The stormwater operating budget is $52,194.

The environmental services department has a combined general operating budget at $150,500 and solid waste, sewer and waterworks are a net-zero budget.

The North Perth Public Library’s operating budget is $1,019,085.

Belfour then broke down the total operating budget for council, with the bottom line being $17,714,173.

“The $17 million is our levy, so that’s what we actually need to collect from the taxpayers to cover all of the costs of the municipality,” explained Belfour.

From the 2022 levy to the 2023 levy, there was a 5.9 per cent increase.

Belfour then goes on to explain the supplementary surplus.

“However, if we left the tax rate the same, there is an increase due to growth of $888,251,” stated Belfour.

“This was achieved by using last year’s surplus of $470,000 from supplemental taxes. So we had budgeted $450,000 for supplementals and we brought in around ($800,000) in supplementals. So we are using that surplus to come down to the 5.9 (per cent)… due to substantial growth, the additional assessment provided was $888,251 using last year’s tax rate.

Therefore, the actual tax impact is much smaller because of that growth,” Belfour explained to council.

“So the difference between last year and this year’s increase in the levy, is $982,968 and of that, $888,000 is covered by growth.”

The last report from the county had a 9.6 per cent levy increase.

“Our North Perth portion of that levy is 12.2 per cent because we have a higher growth rate we take on a little bit more of the county,” stated Belfour.

Belfour then posed the question to council if they would like to remove the surplus and not allocate to the operating budget for 2023 and to be kept for future projects.

This then moved the levy to 8.7 per cent.

There was debate around whether the supplemental surplus to be included in the operating budget to offset the levy or be taken out and used towards capital projects or put into reserves.

Many councillors expressed their support of putting surplus into reserves for capital projects, while others debated this was the year to be providing more financial relief by using it to offset the levy.

Coun. Matt Richardson explained that “there are some people out there who are struggling.”

Coun. Neil Anstett proposed splitting the surplus and putting some in reserves while using some to lower the tax increase.

Council gave direction to staff to move forward with the 2023 draft budget with a $18,184,173 general operating tax levy. This is the bottom line plus the surplus. The impact to the property tax payers is the tax rate, which is 3.6 per cent on the average single family home assessment.

When put to a vote, council voted 8-1 in favour of the 8.7 per cent levy increase and putting the surplus into reserves, with Coun. Richardson the lone vote against. Capital projects will be discussed at the next budget meeting on March 22.

Melissa Dunphy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner