Puslinch receives last-minute operating budget requests

PUSLINCH – With a spread sheet containing $5.9 million in expenditures for 2023, Puslinch council took its time sifting through some last-minute budget requests at its Jan. 5 council meeting.

Director of finance Mary Hasan explained council previously approved a 4 per cent cost of living increase for staff, which added $103,000 to the 2023 operating budget.

And she warned that fuel costs have increased by 25%, which will also increase the operating budget across several departments. 

Insurance has gone up and in many cases government grants have decreased. So council is preparing for a grim budget.

Council was also leery to approve any of the last-minute requests, instead exploring ways to shave dollars from the asks. 

Millennium Garden

The parks and recreation department asked for $3,000 to enhance the Millennium Garden at the Puslinch Community Centre.

Most of that cost is to repair the sprinkler system ($2,000); the remainder would cover the cost of plants, soil and mulch.

“It’s a good example of volunteerism and reflects well on the township,” said councillor Jessica Goyda.

Heritage Advisory Committee

The heritage committee asked for $3,310 to send two committee members to a national heritage conference later this year.

Council toyed with the idea of sending just one representative, but given the passing of Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act, and what it means to heritage properties, and how difficult it can be to navigate national conferences alone, council decided not to tinker with the amount.

The heritage committee is also planning to make and sell “Doors of Puslinch” posters, which it hopes will generate about $2,500 in net revenue. The committee had a one-time ask of $1,700 to cover printing costs.

With Bill 23, committee members have a challenge to designate as many properties on its heritage registry as possible in the next two years. 

Clerk Courtenay Hoytfox said there are 109 properties listed and the committee thought it could get through 20 in 2023. 

“There is significant cost to designating. We have to follow the Heritage Act,” Hoytfox said, adding notices have to be printed in newspapers as per the act.

The cost of advertising notices of designation was estimated to be $11,000 for the 20 properties.

Fire and Rescue Services

Fire chief Tom Mulvey asked if volunteer firefighters could return to being paid $100 to be on-call.

If they are actually called to an emergency, they would be paid according to their contracts. This was the practice, which was cancelled because of COVID-19.

Total cost of this ask is $13,000.

“It makes it easier to do the job and easier to be accountable,” Mulvey said.

“It will increase attendance and will improve response times.”

Health and safety

CAO Glenn Schwendinger proposed sharing a health and safety officer with Centre Wellington to help with record-keeping and other documentation that is required with health and safety matters.

“Several areas have been identified where documentation and record keeping needs to improve across the corporation to ensure compliance with applicable legislation,” he said.

Cost would be about $37,000 annually.

None of these requests were officially approved at the meeting. Council meets again to discuss the capital and operating budgets together on Jan. 18 and a public meeting on the budget is planned for Jan. 25.

Adding $46,500 to the budget equates to a 1% tax increase.

The final 2023 budget is expected to be approved on Feb. 8.