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Erin draft budget starts with 0.5% tax increase

by Phil Gravelle

ERIN - The draft 2019 operating budget prepared for Erin’s new council on Dec. 5 predicts a town tax increase of 0.5 per cent – but changes are expected before the final budget vote on Dec. 18.

Director of Finance Ursula D’Angelo said the draft “represents a prudent and responsible approach to how tax dollars are spent in the Town of Erin.”

Expenditures in the operating budget are tentatively set at $11,272,745, and the tax levy is expected to bring in $6,619,920 – about 59% of total town revenues.

The cost of recommended capital projects, funded by a combination of grants, reserves and taxation, is estimated at $4.2 million.

The budget is designed to deliver services at the same level as 2018, with no increases in user fees and no increase in the number of staff.

“The CAO asked that program managers find a 1% savings within their budget,” said D’Angelo.

These total $43,100, including $26,300 from roads, $8,100 from fire and emergency services and $4,400 from economic development.

Council will vote only on the town portion of the tax bill; county and school taxes will be added later.

The allocation for staff salaries includes progressive increases based on experience, but does not include a cost of living increase – that will be considered by council before final approval.

At Wednesday’s meeting, a closed session was planned to deal with “labour relations or employee negotiations,” as permitted in the Municipal Act.

For the first time, detailed forecasts have been generated for the next three years, with tentative tax increases predicted at 0.92% in 2020, 2.12% in 2021 and 1.47% in 2022.

Consultation with the public has included three workshops, which were also designed to orient new councillors. There was also a budget survey available online, at town hall and at the fair, and residents are encouraged to contact councillors with questions and recommendations in the coming weeks.

Survey said ...

The survey had 216 responses, of which 212 were from Erin residents – 47% rural and 53% urban. Some were unhappy with communications from the town, and D’Angelo noted, “Efforts are underway to improve.”

When identifying what the town’s top spending priority should be, 66% said roads, 51% said infrastructure and 41% said fire and emergency services.

Overall, 61% of respondents gave the town three stars and higher for the services it provides.

There was interest in the town developing a splash pad area and a dog park, and capital requests have been set up for council consideration.

“Each program manager considered the results from the budget survey when preparing the submissions for the draft 2019 base budget and 2020-2022 forecasts,” said D’Angelo.

When asked if they supported more funding to develop, retain and attract businesses, 77% of respondents said yes; 57% agreed with offering financial assistance to businesses to improve façades and signage, as per the Community Improvement Plan (CIP).

When asked about town snow removal, 82% of respondents said they are satisfied. Removal of windrow snow (left by snow plows in driveways) was endorsed by only 24%, with 38% saying no and others not responding.

Some municipalities provide this service to seniors and the disabled, with a user fee.

The top interest in recreation activities was fitness at 49%. There was also interest in aquatic/pool programs, seniors (55+) programs and children’s programs.

There was 51% wanting more parks and trails, and 34% wanting enhancements to existing ones.

On-line registration and booking of facilities was endorsed by 87%. This is a resource request in the budget.

 

December 7, 2018

 
 

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