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Budget season begins as council plans next year's spending

2024's tax increase could be between 2% and 9%, residents are invited and encouraged to get involved early
Collingwood town hall at 97 Hurontario Street.

The Town of Collingwood will have to tighten its belt next year just to meet a two per cent tax increase for 2024, but there's enough on the priority list to bump taxes up by nine per cent. 

According to the staff report on the first 2024 budget draft prepared by town treasurer Monica Quinlan and presented to councillors at their Oct. 16 committee of the whole meeting, staff took a “back to the basics” approach with the budget, but noted doing so comes with risk.

“There is increased pressure on the town to be able to continue to deliver the programs and services expected and ensure that the town is financially secure well into the future,” said Quinlan.

According to a staff report presented by Quinlan back in September, one of the key factors impacting this year’s budget is the consumer price index (CPI). As of the end of August, in Ontario it sits at 3.8 per cent, following a 3.2 per cent increase in July 2023.

The town has also experienced a slowing in construction as have many municipalities across Ontario, with 42 building permits issued for new dwelling units so far as of July this year in comparison to 91 in 2022 and 178 in 2021.

For this year’s budget exercise, town staff divided the budget into four priorities. All items marked in the first priority group are considered extremely urgent and were included in the base two-per-cent increase budget.

For a median assessed household ($327,000), the two per cent increase accounts for an increase of $48.11.

Priority one items include increases to salaries and benefits for existing staff, new staff hires for an engineering manager ($160,000), business analyst ($98,000) and a part-time administrative assistant to the mayor and council ($50,000), and inflationary items such as increases to insurance (10 per cent), natural gas (eight per cent), hydro (four per cent), materials (salt, sand and other 4.5 per cent) and fuel (seven per cent).

Council is also considering three other groups of items: the second priority is considered urgent, the third group is considered important and the fourth priority group is considered important but could be deferred to a future budget year.

There are 17 priority-two items, some of which were given initial support by council during Monday night's meeting, including:

  • Inspection of the intake line feeding the water treatment plant - $625,000
  • Testing/removal of excess fill at public works yard - $300,000
  • Contract extensions (grant dependant) for Small Business Enterprise Centre staff - $151,328
  • New staff: fire inspector - $147,433
  • New staff: Project manager for water/wastewater - $143,746
  • New staff: Making climate change specialist position full-time - $16,500
  • New staff: Making building inspector position full-time - $13,904
  • New staff: Information Management Specialist - $72,000
  • New website and engagement portal - $130,000
  • Accessibility contract (AODA compliance) - $95,424
  • Maintenance Manual - Consolidated Linear Infrastructure Environmental Compliance Approval - $50,000
  • Update operating procedures for wastewater overflow events - $75,000
  • Update hydraulic profile for wastewater treatment plant - $25,000

The other priority-two items include: 

  • Short-term accommodations program - $254,125 (pending approval of STA program)
  • Physician recruitment - $50,000
  • Development approval process review - $40,000
  • Mobile signs - $18,000

There are nine priority-three items including five given initial support by council on Oct. 16: 

  • Asset management - $1,824,000
  • Affordable housing master plan recommendations - $224,000
  • New staff: Wastewater use bylaw/backflow/engineering technician - $123,544
  • Additional customer service software licenses - $10,500
  • New staff: System Support Co-ordinator to IT Systems Administrator - $9,100

The following priority items haven't yet been supported by council

  • Advertising feasibility study - $100,000
  • Grant requests by local non-profits and charities - $100,000
  • Crossing guard policy - $40,000
  • New staff: Administrative office support (fire) - $43,890

There are 11 items in the lowest, priority four group, which include funds for a heritage review, new staff hires including a building operator, a public works operator and a geographical information systems technician, a ward boundary study and the creation of an event permitting program, none of which have council support yet. 

The tax rate will be determined based on how many items in each of the priority groups council approves for the 2024 budget. 

If council approved all the items on all four lists, the tax rate would come in at a nine per cent increase.

The town’s overall funding is made up of multiple income sources including the tax levy, payments in lieu of taxes, grants or government transfers, user rates, user fees, fines, investment income and development charges.

To put these amounts in context, if the town approves the two per cent increase only in 2024, the town’s total operating and capital expenditures will be $153.5 million, while the total amount raised through taxes will be $40.3 million.

Many items given the initial approval by council this week in the priority-two group (specifically related to water) will be paid for through user fees, and not a tax rate increase.

Residents will be able to provide feedback on the first draft of the 2024 budget at an in-person and virtual coffee with council event the week of Oct. 30, with a final date to be determined.

Capital projects have not yet been included in the budget, and will be discussed by council separately when draft two of the budget is presented in November. Draft two of the budget will also include an approximate overall tax rate increase based on the items council gave initial approval for at Monday’s meeting.

Multiple dates for public consultation are planned, with a goal to ratify the final budget by Dec. 18.

To review the entire 2024 draft budget, click here.

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen is an experienced journalist working for Village Media since 2018, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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