Town Council moving slowly, methodically on 2020 budget

November 28, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Baker

When budget discussions got under way at Town Hall this week, Orangeville Council appeared to be taking more of a methodical approach when it comes to managing the municipality’s balance sheet in 2020. 

Over the course of meetings Monday and Tuesday (Nov. 26 and 27), Council spent time absorbing the information presented to them by the Town’s senior staff, before going through several specific line items in both the operating and capital budgets for 2020. 

As we reported earlier in November, the 2020 budget, as it currently stands, calls for a net tax levy increase of 1.5 percent, or $534,669. The Town’s total projected spending for the year sits at approximately $60 million, up from $56 million in 2019. Operating expenses are slated to come in at $40.6 million, with an additional $3 million to be transferred to municipal reserves, and $2.6 million to be transferred to the capital budget. Revenues for the year are expected to top out at just under $9.7 million, with growth over the past 12 months bolstering Town coffers by $480,000. In total, the Town expects to bring in $36.6 million in taxes in 2020 to pay for the wide array of services and projects planned for the year. 

“The Town of Orangeville’s stellar track record of fiscal responsibility and providing value for the property tax dollar is once again reflected in the 2020 budget,” Town Treasurer Nandini Syed wrote in her report to Council. “Staff have worked diligently to realize efficiencies in 2020. For the most part, the aim has been to mitigate any sharp incline in tax levy impact, while maintaining the level and quality of services our ratepayers have come to rely on.”

Taking a detailed look at the Town’s operating budget, department by department, the Orangeville Police Service once again comes in as the most expensive line item in 2020. At just under $8.3 million, OPS makes up 23 percent of the Town’s operating budget in 2020. Next in line is the public works department, which is slated to spend $4.9 million (13 percent), followed by the Orangeville Fire Department, coming in at $3.8 million (10 percent). 

Other departments that expect to breach the $1 million mark in 2020 include finance ($1.3 million), information technology ($1.1 million), library services ($1.8 million), facilities ($2.1 million) and recreation and events ($1.2 million).

While, on the face of it, it would appear numerous departments are projected for extreme fluctuations in spending, notably the facilities department – up 179 percent from $770,000 in 2019 to more than $2.1 million in 2020, and the recreation and events department, down 52 percent from more than $2.5 million in 2019 to around $1.2 million in 2020, this is more to do with recent structural changes at Town Hall than changed spending habits. The reshuffle has seen Town staff split into three distinct services – corporate, community and infrastructure. Much of the changes highlighted have come about as a result of costs being moved from one department and uploaded to another. 

The Town’s 2020 capital budget is currently slated at $15.2 million. After spending years pressing for a new fire station in Orangeville, local fire chief Ron Morden is finally getting his wish. The Town has included $3 million in this year’s capital budget to serve as an initial investment into what is expected to be a $10 million cost to the municipality. A further $5 million is to be set aside in to the 2021 capital budget, with $2 million to come in 2022. 

“This is a project that has been on the radar for a couple of years now, but one of the big issues we have, something we’re still wrestling with, is finding a site for that particular building that fits (the requirements set out by the department),” said Ray  Osmond, the Town’s General Manager of Community Services. 

The current fire station, built in 1972, sits on a flood plain on Dawson Road. Credit Valley Conservation has, thus far, refused to entertain the idea of building out, or completely redeveloping the existing station at its current site. Chief Morden has repeatedly insisted that any future fire hall should be in the same vicinity, so as to ensure firefighters can respond to emergencies in all parts of town in a timely manner. 

An additional $785,000 has been set aside in the 2020 budget to cover the cost of a new tanker truck for the fire department. 

Elsewhere in Mr. Osmond’s domain, the Town is planning to invest $2 million on a new Echo Chill system for Alder Recreation Centre. In explaining this project to Council, Mr. Osmond noted the tool would serve as something of a “miniature energy plant” and that, alongside making ice for the ice pads at Alder, would also generate energy that would be used to provide heat and hot water to the facility. He noted return on investment for this particular project would be recognized within five to seven years, and that the lifespan of the unit would be approximately 30 years. 

The total capital ask across all community services in town is a little over $8.1 million, and will encompass 51 projects, Mr. Osmond concluded. 

Andrea McKinney, General Manager of Corporate Services, indicated her department was looking to spend close to $1.3 million on eight projects in 2020. Chief amongst those is a plan to “digitize” the Town, something Mayor Sandy Brown was particularly excited about, noting planned changes to the municipal website, as well as the proposed creation of a Town app would pay “huge dividends” to both staff and local residents down the line. 

The remainder of the capital budget, some $5.6 million, falls under Infrastructure Services. GM of that particular department, Doug Jones, informed Council about preparatory work for several road rehabilitation projects slated to begin in 2020. Perhaps most notable amongst those is the redevelopment of a stretch of First Street, from Hansen Boulevard to the edge of the Town’s limits on Highway 10. 

Also on the horizon is the planned reconstruction of Centennial Road. Mr. Jones indicated the road is reaching the end of its useful life and is proposing putting $250,000 aside to complete engineering design and environmental assessment work this year, with a view to moving forward with construction in 2021. The project is broken down into a “two-phased approach”, as Mr. Jones explained it, noting the first phase would cover Centennial Road from Dawson Road to Tideman Drive, with the second phase, set for 2022, to run from Tideman Drive to C-Line. Total cost of the development will come in at just under $4.2 million, with $2.1 million to be allocated to the work in both the 2021 and 2022 capital budget. 

In total, Mr. Jones was asking for almost $2.5 million to cover 20 projects across the tax-funded projects within the Infrastructure Services department, with an additional $3.2 million worth of work to be “self-funded”, through money the Town receives through its water and wastewater rates, as well as building commission rates. 

As things stand today, the average household with a property valued by MPAC at $363,000 will pay $3,129 on the Town portion of their tax bills in 2020 – an increase of around $46 when compared to 2019 rates. 

Coun. Debbie Sherwood, however, towards the end of Tuesday’s meeting, queried about potentially lowering that amount even further.

“The current operating budget proposes a 1.5 percent increase. If I wanted to get that budget down to one percent, or even 0.5 percent, what would be the monetary cuts required,” Coun. Sherwood asked. “The increase last year was 0.83 percent, I wanted to see if we could come in lower (this year).”

Treasurer Syed noted a single percentile in the 2020 budget is worth $366,000, so, to bring the overall tax levy increase in Orangeville down to 0.5 percent in 2020, Council would need to shave $366,000 from this year’s budget. 

While he admitted he’d love to see lower taxes in Orangeville, Coun. Todd Taylor expressed his discomfort at Council once again potentially passing a second successive budget where the overall increase would come in below the current rate of inflation (set at 2.03 percent for 2020). 

“I worry about the percentage. I think we need to be thinking about next year. This year we’re looking at 1.5 percent, next year we’re looking at a little more,” he said. “I like to look at the holistic piece of what our term is” and how this might impact Council in the future.

“I’m debt averse, and I don’t want to borrow if we can help it. I’m not excited about our reserves either. We took from our reserves a fair bit last year to get to where we were, I’d prefer that we didn’t do that again.”

He added, “I don’t know that we need to be striving towards that low of an increase (0.5 percent). I like the idea of it, I just worry about what (the consequences) would be.”


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