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Second budget draft pushes 2024 tax increase up to 4.25%

Coffee with Council event to discuss the budget with the public takes place Nov. 8 with a virtual session from 2 to 4 p.m. and an in-person session at the Collingwood Public Library from 6 to 8 p.m.
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Erika Engel/CollingwoodToday

The proposed tax increase for Collingwood taxpayers is creeping up as council has asked for more items to be added to the 2024 budget.

The second draft of the 2024 budget prepared by town treasurer Monica Quinlan was presented to councillors at their Nov. 6 committee of the whole meeting, with value-added items added by councillors taking the budget up to a possible 4.25 per cent increase.

There are at least two more drafts to go before council is expected to give final approval for the budget.

Multiple dates for public consultation are planned in the coming weeks, including a Coffee with Council event on Nov. 8 to discuss the budget with residents, with a goal to ratify the final budget by Dec. 18.

“This is a change from what we thought we were going to the public with,” said Coun. Kathy Jeffery.

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 a base two-per-cent increase budget.

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.

During their Oct. 16 meeting, council approved the following items to be added to the second budget draft, adding $612,024 to the tax base:

  • Affordable housing reserve top-up to $350,000 investment - $224,000;
  • New website and engagement portal - $128,500;
  • Excess fill removal from the public works yard - $127,500;
  • Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) contract position - $97,424;
  • Climate Change Specialist contract to full-time position - $15,000;
  • Additional customer service software licenses - $10,500;
  • System support co-ordinator to IT systems administrator - $9,100

Those additions took the budget from a two-per-cent increase to a 3.75-per-cent increase in 2024.

At their Monday meeting, councillors were also presented with five more items that staff asked to be added to the budget, of which four were approved to move forward to the next draft:

  • New Fire Inspector $44,000
  • Georgian Bay Business Accelerator $120,000
  • Crossing Guard Policy $20,000
  • Cameron Street Ditching - $15,000

A request to add a new human resources seasonal support position for $25,000 was not approved.

These additions took the tax increase up to 4.25 per cent.

One of the key additions in the newest draft was to pre-approve a new engineering position, which was requested by town chief administrative officer Sonya Skinner this past summer but was referred instead to 2024 budget discussions. This week Skinner said the salary range is expected to be between $85,000 and $105,000.

“Collingwood is too big to be small. I think this is a perfect example of that,” said Coun. Christopher Baines during discussions. “The town is under pressure from so many directions, and much of that goes through engineering.”

Coun. Jeffery said she was in support of adding the position, but wanted assurance from staff that the dollars could be found elsewhere, and not through an additional tax increase.

“Staff’s going to have to find that $85,000 somewhere else and not ask us to cut it,” she said.

Mayor Yvonne Hamlin noted that as Collingwood is a growth community, having adequate engineering staff is going to be important.

“Engineering services is not fluff,” said Hamlin. “Some developers do everything they’re asked and more, but some need someone on their back. We don’t have that. I believe... this should be in the base budget.”

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 approved the 3.75 per cent increase only in 2024, the town’s total operating and capital expenditures would be $155 million, while the total amount raised through taxes alone would be $41 million.

In addition to voting through the budget to its third draft, council also voted 5-4 in favour of adding the engineering position, with Deputy Mayor Tim Fryer, Coun. Rob Ring, Coun. Chris Potts and Coun. Steve Perry opposed. The capital budget will be presented with the third draft.

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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