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Town announces $71M budget for roads, buses, projects in 2024

Special council meeting tomorrow includes 'munch-and-mingle' event welcoming residents to discuss draft budget
Collingwood town hall at 97 Hurontario Street.

New vehicle and bus costs are estimated at about $2.4 million for the Town of Collingwood in 2024, which is still a fraction of the $13 million set aside for work on the roads under those vehicles.

As part of the fourth draft of the 2024 budget which is planned to be presented to councillors at a special council meeting on Dec. 6, details on the town’s $71 million capital budget is newly included in this draft. As part of the capital budget, the town is planning to spend $688,000 on expanding its fleet of vehicles across departments, and $1.7 million replacing vehicles that are at the end of their life cycle.

As of this most recent draft, the tax increase for 2024 now sits at 3.73 per cent following council removing two new staff hire requests from the budget at their Nov. 20 meeting.

If the 3.73 per cent tax increase is approved, the impact on a median-assessed home of $327,000 will be $89.93 for the year.

As of now, the entire 2024 draft budget for the Town of Collingwood accounts for $141.2 million in spending, with $70.3 million to be spent on operating costs. The capital budget for 2024 accounts for $71 million in spending.

Major capital spending items proposed for 2024 include $475,000 for bus replacements, nearly $13 million for road work across town including $525,000 for the Sixth St. trunk watermain and $490,000 for First St./Pretty River Parkway street side enhancements. About $100,000 is included to add irrigation to downtown garden beds and $450,000 toward washrooms at Old Village Park.

Multiple departments are asking for funds this year for vehicle replacements and new vehicles, including $80,000 for fire services, $130,000 for the parks, recreation and culture department as well as $66,000 for an additional vehicle to expand the fleet, $387,000 for the development vehicles and a replacement for $713,040 for the roads department and a bylaw vehicle for $75,000. A new wastewater vehicle is on the list at a cost of $71,000.

The capital program is funded by reserve funds ($24.3 million), development charges ($23.7 million), funds from other municipalities ($15.6 million), grants ($6.6 million) and taxes ($746,500).

Also looming on the town's books is the future water treatment plant expansion, with an estimated build cost at $271 million. The 2024 capital budget sets aside $27.26 million for the water plant, none of which is coming from new taxation. 

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 this year, but noted doing so comes with risk.

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.

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

While items approved at their Nov. 6 meeting added up to an initial 4.25 per cent tax increase, later in November council voted by a narrow margin against two new staff hire requests: for a forestry co-ordinator and a senior engineering position.

Due to those positions being eliminated, the tax increase for 2024 now sits at 3.73 per cent.

Newly included in the fourth draft of the 2024 budget is a year-end forecast for 2023, which staff say the town is expecting a surplus this year of about $1.3 million. The majority of this, according to staff, is due to remaining funds for salaries and benefits due to some vacant staff positions remaining unfilled.

“This surplus is largely impacted by the timing of recruitment and over the past year, internal staff movement in the form of promotions and lateral moves, has contributed in part to an increase in surplus dollars,” notes Quinlan in her report to councillors.

Due to this, staff are recommending a further $390,000 reduction to the municipal levy, which would translate to a further one-per-cent reduction to the tax increase for 2024. However, staff is also recommending adding an additional $292,500 be added to the levy to further address asset management.

Councillors will be considering all these options at a special meeting of council on Dec. 6 starting at 3 p.m. The meeting will start with an in-camera session, followed by deputations and a presentation of the fourth draft of the budget. Following the presentation and discussion, the meeting will transition to a "munch-and-mingle" event for residents to talk further about the budget with councillors and staff, at approximately 6 p.m.

To read the staff report on the fourth draft of the budget, click here.

Any members of the public may attend in person in council chambers at Collingwood town hall, or virtually by Zoom webinar. The meeting will also be livestreamed on the town’s YouTube channel here.