Huron East budget begins with $1.5 million hole - Feb. 28, 2019
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
The Huron East budget process is beginning with a shortfall of approximately $1.49 million and a suggested seven per cent increase to the general municipal levy.
Treasurer Paula Michiels told council at its Feb. 19 meeting that she is assuming that Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) money will decrease again by an estimated $224,940. However, Ontario Minister of Finance Vic Fedeli has said that OMPF levels will be maintained, which could result in unexpected revenue for Huron East.
Michiels introduced councillors to the first draft of the budget that night, saying that there will have to be significant cuts to the budget before it can be balanced.
One topic that sparked conversation among councillors was the recreation centre budgets and where they were anticipated to end up at the end of 2019.
The Brussels, Morris and Grey Community Centre was able to significantly chip away at its accumulated deficit last year, bringing it down from $81,079 to $37,688. With a proposed levy reduction of $28,839, the centre is anticipated to end 2019 with a deficit of over $126,000.
The centre’s budget for the year also includes two capital projects. The first is the recently-approved feasibility study being conducted by Campaign Coaches and the second is the replacement of two dehumidifiers.
Huron East is projecting a slight reduction in the Seaforth and District Community Centre accumulated surplus by the end of the year.
It began the year with a deficit of $126,062 and ended 2018 with a deficit of $130,039. Huron East is budgetting for a slight decrease in the deficit by the end of the year, with the centre ending the year $124,142 in the hole.
In addition to the debt reduction levy, the centres will also be receiving a 2.5 per cent increase to their levies, which is in step with the rest of the municipality.
Deputy-Mayor Bob Fisher, however, was blunt in saying that he felt it was time the community centres pulled themselves up by the boot straps.
“Why don’t we not give them any increase and tell them to raise more money?” Fisher asked, adding that every year the municipality gives more and more to the centres and the revenue continues to decrease.
Brussels Councillor John Lowe, however, stood up to Fisher, saying there is only so much that the boards and small staff at each centre can do, short of pulling people off the streets and demanding they use the centres. He said that increasing usage at the recreation centres is no easy task, but the staff Huron East has in place has been doing its best.
In the budget, staff has also included an increase of just over $90,000 for computer upgrades in the municipal office. New computer equipment will cost $75,000, while software will cost $15,375.
There are also capital projects included, such as: the Duke Street and Centennial Drive extension in Seaforth for $30,000; the Egmondville road and sewer reconstruction project for $1.26 million and the repaving of six kilometres of Morrison Line for $480,000.
The municipality is also planning on over $550,000 in public works capital spending, including $410,000 for a new grader and $160,000 for a new trackless sidewalk machine.
Michiels told council that the 2019 budget includes a 3.9 per cent increase in spending over the previous year’s budget, 1.2 per cent of that is budgetted to be paid for through taxation.
Chief Administrative Officer Brad Knight said there could be some savings found in the budget that could relieve some pressure to the tune of between $400,000 or $500,000, but that council would still be looking at over $1 million that would have to be cut via some very tough decisions.
Michiels will present a second draft of the budget to council next month.