Collingwood residents could see the county portion of their tax bill inch up this year.
The 2020 County of Simcoe draft budget was presented to county council last week, outlining how the county intends to spend its budget next year. The proposed tax increase for taxpayers across the county is 2 per cent, which works out to an increase of $5.58 per $100,000 of MPAC assessment.
“Part of the challenge was that there was an unknown (provincial funding) earlier in the year,” said Warden George Cornell. “Going forward, we have some concerns with our 2021 budget because we’ve had some indications from the province. Our process starts in June, and that was the challenge this year... we weren’t sure until a little late in the game what we were dealing with. I think the province understands that.”
The total county budget for 2019 is $530 million.
When asked why, when the county levy is increasing, the overall budget is decreasing, Trevor Wilcox, general manager of corporate performance with the County of Simcoe said there are a variety of factors that lead to the final numbers.
“Operating expenses are going up by about $10 million, and the levy really addresses a lot of that change,” said Wilcox, adding that last year, the county had major capital project expenditures that took up a big chunk of last year’s budget, including the Barrie Simcoe Emergency Campus.
Provincial cuts also made this year’s budget more of a challenge.
“The reduction in funding from the provincial government has probably made (this budget) the most challenging,” said Wilcox.
Efficiencies found in the budget this time around have come in the form of a reduction of six positions in Ontario Works, two positions in children services as well as flat budgets from the Service Simcoe branch, as well as technological automation of human resources and finance transactions.
“To counter that, we’ve done a number of things in terms of trying to keep our expenses either flat or reducing our expenses,” said Wilcox.
Over the past few years, the county has also taken on in-house fleet repair and maintenance of all their vehicles, whereas previously the county had sent vehicles out for repair.
“We’ve accumulated savings through in-house fleet management... to the tune of about $1 million to $2 million,” said Wilcox.
Some Collingwood-specific projects are addressed in the county budget, including work on the Barrie-Collingwood Rail Trail at a price tag of $400,000 in 2020 for the required environmental assessment and approvals with trail construction planned to begin in 2021 or 2022.
Barrie and Orillia residents do not pay taxes at the county level, as they are separated cities. Instead, the municipalities allot a specific amount in their own budgets to pay for the use of some county services.
For the separated City of Barrie, their contribution to use some county services (Long Term Care and Seniors Services, Paramedic Services, Children and Community Services, Ontario Works, Social Housing Non-Profit, Simcoe County Housing Corporation, the county museum and archives) comes with a price tag of $21 million for 2020, an increase of 10.1 per cent over 2019 budget numbers.
For the separated City of Orillia, their contribution to use county services (Long Term Care and Seniors Services, Paramedic Services, Children and Community Services, Ontario Works, Social Housing Non-Profit and the Simcoe County Housing Corporation) will come with a price tag of $6.5 million for 2020, an increase of 12.7 per cent over 2019.
On Tuesday morning during Committee of the Whole, councillors voted to recommend the draft budget. The budget was referred to the Nov. 26 regular council meeting for adoption.
Total county expenditures for 2020 is estimated at $530 million, broken down as follows:
- Paramedic Services - $58 million
- Long Term Care and Seniors Services - $70.6 million
- Ontario Works - $71.1 million
- Children & Community Services - $60.3 million
- Social Housing - $58.9 million
- Transportation and Engineering - $77.4 million
- Transit - $8.8 million
- Solid Waste Management - $48.8 million
- General Municipal Services - $33.6 million
- Administrative and Statutory Support - $37.3 million
- Planning and Economic Development - $5.6 million