HURON COUNTY – Michael Blumhagen, treasurer for the County of Huron, presented the draft budget for 2022 at a special budget meeting held during the regular council session on Jan. 5.
Blumhagen said that staff had proposed a levy increase of $2,124,034 or 4.76 per cent year over year to a total of $46,772,149.
2022 returned roll for property assessment value has increased by $160,691,040, the draft budget summary said. Therefore, if the county were to maintain the same tax rates as 2021, it would support a 0.91 per cent on the levy, or an increase of $405,430.
To fund the proposed 2022 draft budget increase of 4.76 per cent, the county would see a tax rate increase of 3.81 per cent.
The average impact of the draft 2022 budget increase on $100,000 residential assessment is an increase of $17.57.
On the median residential property for Huron County valued at $209,000, the proposed increase in 2022 is $36.71.
For farmland, the increase per $100,000 is $4.39, and on the median farm property valued at $985,300, the increase is $43.27.
Blumhagen said, “It is important to note that the tax roll for 2022 is based on the same current value assessment roll as 2021, so any changes in the assessment roll is based strictly on new net growth.”
He added, “There will not be any significant tax shifts in 2022 for the farm class as we have seen in the last two reassessment cycles.”
Labour represents a significant portion of the County budget with approximately $50,500,000 in total labour costs (salary and benefits). This figure excludes the amalgamated Huron Perth Health Unit.
Staff has included 2 per cent in the budget for non-union and Council per diems. Union increases are based on existing agreements or estimated settlements. Grid movements and job evaluation results are also to be factored in.
Key budget considerations include non-union salary increases, proposed at 2 per cent for 2022, with a total impact on overall salary and benefits of $456,000.
The report said, “staff will strive that future union settlements will fall in line within this amount. Union salaries continue to cause pressures as many settlements are based on arbitrated settlements.
The non-union salaries were increased at 1.5 per cent annually from 2017-2021 in an effort to mitigate overall budget increases.”
Expenses are being included in the draft budget to support the 2022 Gallagher Huron County Non-Union Compensation and Pay Equity review. A total of $186,500 is being included in the corporate budget as a lump sum for the proposed impacts of this review. If approved, these costs will be allocated to their respective departmental budgets.
Some additional staff is being recommended for 2022 with further details included in the respective departmental budget commentaries. These include a Communications Specialist, an HRIS analyst, an Equity Diversity and Inclusion Officer, EMS Goderich base up staffing of four full-time equivalents, EMS Community Care Team staff, a Housing Supervisor, Homes IPAC position, additional part-time backfill hour supports for Huronlea administration and additional funded positions for the Homes to support COVID and the increase in the provincially mandated direct resident care requirements. Most of the additional staff are fully funded; however, some are being proposed to be financed by the levy in 2022 or 2023.
Total salary and benefit increases for 2022 are estimated to be $3,771,000. A significant portion of this increase is fully provincially funded with respect to the EMS Community Care Team - $773,000 in funding. In addition, the COVID supports and required increase in direct resident care at the Homes - $1,165,000 in funding.
Blumhagen said, “additional pressures continue in our budget as we see the provincial funding increases falling short of the required increases in collective agreements, particularly within the Homes for the Aged. Additionally, EMS salary increases are only 50/50 funded with an 18-month lag in funding to support the current year increase, so there is an increase annually to be covered by the levy.”
Insurance represents a significant budget pressure for 2022; however, the renewal has not been provided at the time of drafting this report. The amount included in the 2022 budget is an estimate of $1,183,100, which is an increase of $338,200 over 2021, or an equivalent of 0.76 per cent on the levy.
With the county only eligible for the Transitional Assistance (a non-core grant) of the OMPF, it is expected that the OMPF for the county will be eliminated within the next several years. This assumption is based on the recent trend in reallocating the non-core transitional assistance to the core grants. For 2022, the decrease was $159,200 to a total of $902,500.
For 2022, staff has included $2,476,000 of estimated 2021 operating surplus, plus $400,000 in estimated Public Works capital surplus into the budget in an effort to reduce and mitigate the overall 2022 estimated levy increase. Staff had previously estimated that we would be in an overall surplus position for 2021. However, the final quarter events in various departments have reduced previous estimates, so until year-end adjustments are finalized, the final year-end surplus will not be known.
Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times