Erin approves final 2022 budget with 2.9% tax levy increase

ERIN – Council here has approved the 2022 budget at the previously projected 2.9 per cent tax levy increase for Town of Erin residents.

This translates to an increase of $53 in taxes for an average residential home assessed at $600,000.

A total of $196,500 will be drawn from the tax stabilization reserve to offset costs.

In a Dec. 16 meeting, council underwent a final review of the town’s 2022 budget, prepared by finance director Oliver Gob.

In dollar terms, the town’s tax levy (total tax dollars used to fund the budget) is set at $7,912,752 for 2022, an increase of 2.9% from $7,689,659 in 2021, which Gob noted remains below the current rate of inflation.

The increase will allow several capital projects to proceed, Gob explained to council in a previous meeting.

“Given the economic backdrop of inflation year-over-year running above four per cent, staff have developed a budget that is cognizant of the financial pressures on the residents,” Gob explained.

“This budget has resulted in an increase in net program costs of approximately $78,000, or 1.1%, over the 2021 net program budget costs.”

The town’s total budget for 2022 is set at $45.9 million, which includes $13.3 million in operating expenses and $32.6 million in capital expenses.

The $32.6 million in capital expenses will be funded with $23 million from development charges, $1 million from taxation and the remainder from reserves, debt payments and grants.

Capital projects include $9,466,300 for the wastewater treatment plant, with $6,247,758 of that cost to be funded through development charges and $3,218,542 from grants.

Other notable items include: $10,689,700 for the town’s wastewater collection system, with $8,017,275 to be funded from development charges and $2,672,425 from grants; and $8,507,077 for a new water service system, which is anticipated to be fully funded through development charges.

Councillor John Brennan brought up concerns previously raised by councillor Michael Robins with regards to anticipated expenditures not included in the budget.

“If we have significant expenditures as this year relapses, I hope that we will look at potentially putting a budget item in there for future years so that the public and council has a greater clarity around where the expenditures are supposed to go,” Brennan said.

“The more clarity we can bring to the whole process, be it budget or reporting … the more clarity we can put forward to the public, the better off we all are in terms of the going forward with the process.”

Gob said staff will be looking to monitor financial activity into 2022 “to see if there’s a trend and a pattern and to recast future years’ budgets to be more reflective.”

Councillor Robins said he is still uncomfortable with the salary increases and the consulting increases for 2022, noting there was no detailed headcount analysis provided.

“The integrity of the budget and management of people and consultants is a major major part of how any organization is operated and a budget’s a control mechanism and it’s a management tool,” Robins iterated.

He added he would like to see two things added to the budget:

  • detailed headcount information reported on a quarterly basis, including things like actuals, outstanding items and year-over-year changes; and
  • a deeper analysis of consulting, in addition to a deeper analysis of the town’s salary line, noting he couldn’t support the budget without a full detailed report of the headcount.

“I think in order to report budget versus actuals for next year, we need to have something that is a little more in line with what our forecast is going to be this year and the actual headcount that we have,” he explained, putting forward a notice of motion to staff.

Gob explained vacancies, resulting in high turnover rate throughout the year, have contributed to salary costs being less than projected for 2021, which he said is reflected in the year-end forecast.

He added the high turnover rate, combined with the low salary cots for 2021, has resulted in salary increases for 2022, but he assured council there’s not much change year over year.

A motion to accept the 2022 final budget report was approved in a 3-1 vote, with Brennan, Rob Smith and Jamie Cheyne in favour, and Robins opposed.