Minto council sets aggressive schedule for 2022 budget process

MINTO – Council here has once again approved a process and schedule that will see the municipality’s 2022 budget passed before Christmas.

Treasurer Gordon Duff presented council with a schedule at the Sept. 21 meeting that has budget presentations and public delegations beginning on Nov. 23, culminating in a public open house on Dec. 14.

The schedule calls for council deliberations on approval of the budget to take place on Dec. 21.

“So book your calendars. We’re going to be seeing a lot of each other in November and December for sure,” said Duff.

The 2021 budget was passed on Dec. 15, 2020, a departure from previous years when council typically approved the budget for the current year in late March or early April.

A staff report recommended economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic be among the guiding principals in the 2022 budget.

“It shouldn’t be a surprise and we should all be used to it, but were still in COVID,” Duff told council.

“The uncertainty seems to be with us and I think we’ve been pretty good, all departments, at rolling with the punches – and so has the council for sure.”

Estimating potential inflation costs will be among the challenges for upcoming budget discussions, Duff noted.

“Inflation seems to be all over the map, price of oil and hydro, a lot of basic stuff … we try and take our best guess at that and hedge our prices where we can,” he said.

Duff said 2020 was “a pretty big year” for capital projects and “I think ‘22 will be bigger for sure.”

He suggested the budget would include “modest tax increases and modest user fee increases as we’ve been doing.”

Duff also pointed out at “an amazing array,” of grant opportunities has been available recently.

“It seems like every week or two we have another announcement, and you have to go through it,” he stated.

“With the new (federal) government … do you anticipate easier money?” asked deputy mayor Dave Turton.

“In certain respects, yes. I think definitely on the climate change front,” said Duff.

“Again, we’ve had a lot of talk. I have had a lot of discussions with our friends at the county too. There’s a lot of projects that we could do, and I think we’re willing, but give us the funding to do it.”

He added, “It’s hard to believe in eight months we’re going to be going to the polls provincially. So I think the stimulus taps will stay running for at least the next year.”

“You’re dead on with your analysis,” agreed Mayor George Bridge.

“If you have good news coming out of something that cost us $600 million to do that basically brought no change, it was the fact that there’s no change.”

The mayor added, “The good news for us is the fact that we know what they said in the election, all the parties, what they were going to do; you know attainable housing, obviously climate mitigation things are going to be big and climate change stuff.

“You’re going to see that because the NDP and the Liberals are both on the same notes on those … so I think this could go fairly quickly as far as a new budget and going forward.”

Turton asked if an anticipated rise in interest rates would impact the town’s financial position.

“It will make things more expensive for borrowing,” Duff replied.

“But again, when they say they’re going to go up, yes, but probably like half a point or something like that. They’re still historically low.

“It’ll have an effect but it’s not going to impede our plans.”