By: Karen Wolfe
If it weren’t for the pandemic, the 2021 projected municipal tax increase of 1.45 per cent could be considered a tasty morsel in a pre-election budget. But due to the impact of Covid 19, staff have carefully crafted a draft budget that shows uncommon restraint in their list of wants plus an uneasy picture of trying to complete $26.4 million worth of capital projects that were approved in previous budgets but not finished. That work, on top of another $8.3 million in new capital projects for 2021 plus the pre-approved MURC spending, leaves a monumental workload for next year.
Despite the fact that the draft budget predicts the pandemic will be with us well into next summer, staff are also estimating that user fees, leases and rentals will continue to bring in pre-pandemic revenues of $3 million plus.
Some of the new work in 2021 includes $2 million for road maintenance and rehabilitation, $850,000 to replace a tanker for the fire department, $500,000 for the rehabilitation of West Park and $760,000 to update information technology at the Civic Centre. The Town will also spend $1 million for a building condition assessment program.
Obvious by its absence in the $78 million draft budget document is the pre-approved spending of $14.3 million for a new $27 million Civic Centre. That project has been shelved for the time being with a new “to be determined” timeline.
The other project to get pushed back and scaled down, is the rehabilitation of West Park. Originally approved as a $10 million project, the 2021 draft budget allocates $500,000 for work in 2021 and an additional $800,000 in 2022. The complete rebuild has been moved to 2029.
But it all still means an increase in property taxes and according to one resident, now is not the time to ask for more money.
“There should be a zero tax increase,” said Gerry Bones, a Keswick resident and member of the Georgina Fair Tax Association. “There is no reference to the fact that given the current state of the economy, residents and businesses will have reduced disposable incomes.”
He said an overview of the process seems to indicate that little if nothing was done to trim expenses on budget items. “I refuse to believe that every department could not trim a couple of percentage points from their budget.”
The draft budget negotiations by council will be held in a virtual setting on December 1 and 2. The document is on-line at georgina.ca