All County, All the Time Since 2010 MAKE THIS YOUR PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY HOME...PAGE!  Wednesday, November 25th, 2020

Budget woes bubbling up for the County in 2020

While County staff wrestle with providing councillors an update on savings, efficiencies and pressures for the 2020 budget, it already knows a brutal winter with repetitive storms put the roads winter maintenance over budget.

In its mid-year report to council, the finance department states that as of June 30, spending of $3,159,900 has exceeded the budget by $1,620,400. The 2019 budget amount of $3,078,900 is 102.6 per cent spent.

“It is estimated, using prior year spending for the second half of the year, that roads winter control (plowing, sanding and salting) spending for the year could exceed budget by $1,500,000. This will negatively impact the surplus/deficit at Dec. 31, 2019,” the report states.

Acting CAO Robert McAuley said a dialogue is ongoing to see if there’s benefits of also having a budget to cover spring flooding problems, noting it could all be included into one budget.

Council, in July, asked staff to provide information to explore efficiencies in the 2020 budget, including alternative delivery models and an aim to reduce operational expenditures by 10 per cent. Departments were to examine and list operations in three levels – mandated by statute, by policy, and other.

The first report to council at Committee of the Whole Thursday, noted there are no identified savings or efficiencies to report yet, as operating budgets are under way and final numbers are not yet available.

“Staff has clearly received the message to find efficiencies,” said Mayor Steve Ferguson. “It’s proving more difficult than they thought, but there’s no lack of initiative on their part.”

Councillor Jamie Forrester added that council too, must carefully watch the amount of requests it  makes of staff, and services added.

While actual dollar values are not yet known, staff have identified several key third-party areas that will likely seek increases in the 2020 budget. Those include the health unit levy, land ambulance contract renewal costs, social and family services and social housing costs, the OPP contract renewal, Quinte Conservation levy, the library board and assessment review board costs.

Other items pressuring the new budget included:
– Bill 108’s requirement for County’s Development Charges Background Study to be updated to remove some services.
– Bill 108’s requirement for a new Community Benefits Charge to replace some former Development Charges Services,
– A revised Water and Wastewater Rates Study as a result of changing capital
timing and apparent declines in consumption,
– Asset Management Planning
– Asset retirement financial reporting obligations (mandate from the Public Sector Accounting Board),
– Accrued retirement benefits obligation reporting,
– Short-term accommodation licensing administration,
– Potential municipal accommodation tax administration

“Council’s direction is a very large undertaking for staff, not just in identifying operational efficiencies and savings, but in being to be able to reformat the entire budget along the priorities identified,” stated Amanda Carter, director of finance, in her report. “Our current accounting software can not produce reports or the budget in the requested format. To do so will require finance staff to create separate excel spreadsheets for each service area in the manner requested for manual input. Creating and editing the spreadsheets will take finance staff one full week and finance staff will have to repeat this process for every version of the budget.”

An earlier presentation of policy to manage the County’s assets – required by the provincial government – was also presented.

The policy is designed to address financial challenges and constraints for municipalities and make best use of available funds to deliver services.

In 2017, the province enacted legislation requiring all municipalities create policy by July 1, 2019 followed by plans for core assets by July 2021; remaining assets by July 2023 and adopting proposed levels of service for all asset classes by July 2024.

Watson Associates was retired for the management planning steps. The draft policy outlines how the plan is to be created, implemented and updated, with details on valuation methods, levels of service, life-cycle management and assigns responsibilities to key staff for implementation.

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  1. Chris Keen says:

    “Our current accounting software can not produce reports or the budget in the requested format. To do so will require finance staff to create separate excel spreadsheets for each service area in the manner requested for manual input. Creating and editing the spreadsheets will take finance staff one full week and finance staff will have to repeat this process for every version of the budget.”

    Talk about inefficiency! Perhaps Council needs to consider updating the software staff must use for this exercise?

  2. Mark says:

    I dare say we will not be looking at Departmental reductions of 10%. It was unrealistic to begin with.

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