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Treasurer warns council town should be saving more for stormy days

Town staff presented a draft 2019 budget to council yesterday
Collingwood Town Hall Erika Engel/CollingwoodToday

Town staff released a draft 2019 budget yesterday and the proposed numbers will translate to a decrease in taxes for the average property owner in Collingwood, according to the treasurer’s presentation.

Marjory Leonard, Collingwood’s treasurer, told council and the public yesterday the dollar value staff is proposing to collect in taxes next year is $31.5 million, which is about $2,201.28 per average property valued at $314,595. In 2018, the tax bill for the same property would have been $2,238.52, according to Leonard’s presentation.

The difference is about a 4.72 (about $37) per cent decrease in the town portion of taxes before the school board, Simcoe County, and town’s capital levy are added to the bill.

Collingwood’s 2019 proposed budget includes at total of $92 million in funding. Of that amount, $31.6 million is from taxation, and $61.2 million comes from other sources such as federal and provincial grants ($3.4 million), Reserve and Reserve Funds ($18.2 million), development charges ($13.9 million), and user fees and other non-tax revenue ($25.7 million)

The proposed operating budget for 2019 is $58.9 million, with $33.8 million proposed for the capital expenditures.

In an introductory presentation of the budget during the Strategic Initiatives Committee meeting on Monday, the town’s department heads gave a brief synopsis of what’s to come in further budget meetings this week.

Most departments cited the town’s growth as a budget pressure with some departments, including the Fire Department and Library asking for an additional staff member to handle increased services.

The taxation portion of the budget ($31.6 million proposed in 2019) gets divided between the departments with the hightest amount (20 per cent) going to transportation. Police, Fire, and Parks departments each take 16 per cent of taxes, and general government makes up 12 per cent. The library gets six per cent of the money collected through taxes, planning and development gets five per cent, the capital levy takes five per cent and there's another four per cent marked other. 

Treasurer Leonard also gave an additional presentation on the town’s debt, suggesting this council should review the previous council’s decision of a “pay-as-you-go” model which prohibits the town from incurring new debt for projects.

“It’s difficult to find room for major capital and infrastructure projects … in the long run we may delay more necessary projects waiting for reserve funds to become available,” said Leonard. “Is it inherently unfair? Is it fair to tax a resident over many years to fund a project only to build it after they move away?”

She also warned council the towns’ asset management reserve fund still carried a $9 million deficit compared to what the asset management plan suggests.

The fund is mandated by the province, as is a plan, to make sure the town’s infrastructure is not only maintained and replaced when the lifecycle dictates, but there’s money set aside to mitigate risks caused by weather events and climate change.

“The fiscal strategy must change,” said Leonard. “There is a pressing need to increase the deposits to the reserve fund.”

Leonard’s suggestion is increasing the town’s capital levy (paid by taxpayers) from .75 per cent to 2 per cent, which is an increase to the average property (valued at $314,00) from $16 a year to $43 a year.

Budget deliberations continue with a public meeting on Thursday, March 7 at Collingwood Public Library in Community Rooms B and C on the third floor beginning at 10 a.m. This will be a meeting of full council as the Strategic Initiatives Committee, therefore the chair will call for public input and comments throughout the meeting. There will be another meeting Thursday, March 14 in the council chambers beginning at 4 p.m. for continued deliberations. Following this meeting will be a “coffee with council” session allowing for informal questions to individual members of council. On the same evening, there will be a formal public meeting to allow for additional public input and comments.

Staff have suggested March 25 as the tentative date for adoption of the 2019 budget.

For the draft budget and presentation notes from Monday, click here.


Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter, photographer and community editor.
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