The draft budget which was approved at last week’s Council meeting contains no increase in property taxes for 2021. Although the Operating Budget did increase by 4%, revenues are expected to increase to cover that, leaving no need for further taxes to be levied. According to the budget presentation to Council, “The fiscal and budgetary management modernization efforts undertaken by staff over the past number of months have created an environment that can facilitate a 0% tax rate increase for 2021 while maintaining – and in some cases improving – the level of service delivery and implementing a diversified capital investment program for North Grenville”.
Expenses for 2021 are projected to be $22.7 million, of which the largest part goes to salaries and employee benefits, which rose by 37%, account for 20% of total expenses. This increase of $1.3 million in salaries and benefits, totals $8.3 million, and was explained by Brad Brookman, Director of Finance for North Grenville, as being necessary to bring staffing levels up to what is needed to provide the services residents expect.
“The total salaries and benefits increase is a direct result of several years of staffing levels not keeping up with the increase in service levels needs commiserate with a high growth municipality”, he reported to Council. “The historic lack of investment in adequate staffing for the municipality resulted in a deterioration of services levels and an inability to provide the required resources to adequately undertake the level of capital investment projects in support of our growing community.”
Municipal staffing has been increased by the addition “four new seasoned management staff”, and “four new staff to support Administration”.
Contract Services was another major part of the Operating Budget for 2021. This expense rose by 14%, from $4.4 million in 2020 to $4.9 million in 2021, and accounts for 22% of total operating expenses. Budget documents note that “Contracted services that fall under this category include waste management contract, various insurance programs, technology services, as well as other contracts related to delivering various programs within the municipality”.
Not all property taxes paid by North Grenville taxpayers goes to the Municipality. The United Counties of Leeds & Grenville receive around a third of that revenue, while Education accounts for 14%, leaving 53% of the total for the Municipality. There will be no increase in the tax rate for Education, and a 1.45% increase for the United Counties. These tax revenues provide 72% of all municipal revenues, out of which many services have to be covered.
The average cost of these services to each household is around $2,400.85 per year. Of that, $663 per year goes to Public Works (waste, recycling and engineering); Parks & Recreation gets $263.58 per year, while other sectors using those funds include Emergency & Protective Services ($160.14 per year), and Finance & Treasury ($130.59).
Although the Ontario Government has maintained some transfer funds to municipalities during the pandemic, other programs are being phased out. In 2021, these transfers will decrease from $2.2 million to $2 million. The Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) will provide just over $1 million to North Grenville in 2021. It is the Province’s main general assistance grant to municipalities, primarily supports northern and rural municipalities across the province. The Fund has been reduced from $550 million in 2018, to $500 million this year.
This demands a proactive approach to finding other potential sources of revenue in the form of grants and other funding programs, and the Municipality has hired a Grants & Funding Analyst to focus on that research. This is a pilot project and it is recognised by all in business that grant applications have become a specialised and complex field which requires a dedicated person.
Costs for capital projects in 2021 are assessed at $10 million. Of this, work on roads will take $4.7 million, sidewalk work will cost $122,000, and paving Wellington Street in Kemptville will cost around $1 million. Other projects to be funded in 2021 include lighting for the tennis courts in Riverside Park ($44,350), lighting at the Municipal Centre ($400,000), and rehabilitation work at Maplewood Hall in Oxford Mills ($50,000). The Municipality’s share of the County Road 43 expansion will be $2.6 million in 2021.
The Municipality has been restructuring the budget process over the past year, and staff and council expect their new approach will make annual budgets more predictable, transparent, and flexible. In the Budget Document for 2021, estimated expenses and revenues for each year until 2024 are included. Further information on the 2021 Budget and the full 2021-2024 Consolidated Budget can be found on the municipality’s website at: https://www.northgrenville.ca/budget.