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County CAO presents solutions to challenges to start budget 2020 deliberations

Beginning budget week deliberations, the County’s new CAO Marcia Wallace is presenting solutions to several ongoing challenges, using money from the one-time grant of $725,000 received from the provincial government

Her budget context report before councillors at Tuesday’s special council meeting identifies known challenges and proposed future actions to find efficiencies and improve services for County residents.

In July, council directed staff to find 10 per cent savings across the budget for 2020.

Marcia Wallace, Prince Edward County’s CAO

“Although staff have been able to identify savings in some areas, other areas have substantive budget pressures,” Wallace states. “And the overall result being, this targeted reduction has not been achieved. At this point, staff are recommending a budget which holds current costs (representing neither an increase nor decrease across the overall budget). The proposed 2020 budget is balanced, meaning no tax levy increase.” (See below for more details)

At Monday’s special council meeting, the CAO is requesting two transfers from the grant funds – of $91,000 and $98,675 – to find future savings through significant changes to how services are delivered.

The $91,000 transfer would be directed toward an online booking system for recreation and facilities; an online public consultation tool, and the shortfall needed to finish paying for a payroll IT system.

The $98,675 would be directed to effectiveness and efficiency studies for service delivery, administrative and governance process reviews. She notes the County recently applied to the province for additional funding for a $63,675 service delivery and $35,000 for administrative and governance reviews, but was not successful.

The balance of the grant – $410,355 – would remain in reserves and could be used toward recommendations from the studies, and other areas.

Her report notes staff would continue pursuing other areas for efficiencies – such as a more user-friendly public complaint system; automated bill payments for frequently used fees and charges; and the establishment of a public WIFI system for the County with a first phase in Picton and subsequent in Wellington and Bloomfield. (Longer-term non-municipal funding to maintain that system is under consideration.)

To start, Wallace’s report suggests a recreation/facility online booking system which would allow the public 24/7 opportunity to view availability and make bookings. The system, she noted, would also minimize administrative telephone time responding to inquiries. Cost pegged at $40,000.

An online public consultation tool at a cost of $16,000 per year would see staff purchase a licence for “Bang the Table” an online community engagement platform used by more than 150 municipalities across the nation, including 50 in Ontario. It includes tools for surveys, polls, moderated discussion forums and idea generation functions to encourage dialogue.

“This could be used by County staff and reduce the reliance on external consultants, while meaningfully increasing public participation,” Wallace states.

Budget deliberations begin Jan. 28 at 5 p.m. and include Wallace’s report to council and an overview of the budget by Amanda Carter, director of finance. Additional meetings are scheduled for Jan. 29-31.

The total proposed 2020 operating budget is $56.9 million. This amount is offset by revenue from various sources (e.g. grants, fees) totalling $18.6 million.

Property taxes fund the operating budget amount ($38.2 million) not covered by these revenues.

In keeping with council’s directive to find operational efficiencies, the proposed 2020 net operating budget of $38.2 million is $245,825 less than the 2019 budget (-0.6 per cent).

The total proposed 2020 capital budget is $12.1 million. The capital budget is funded primarily from various reserves and reserve funds ($9.8 million) with the balance funded by grants ($0.9 million) and debt servicing ($1.4 million).

Prior to council’s final decisions, the staff-recommended budget would have an overall impact of a 0.64 per cent decrease on the 2020 residential property tax bill.

Mark Kerr, the County’s Media and Communications Co-ordinator, states the proposed 2020 budget keeps County services operating at the current level including:

Roads – Ensuring motor vehicles, pedestrians, and bike traffic keep moving on 2,112 lane kilometres of road and approximately 55 kilometres of sidewalks.

Fire and Emergency Response – Responded to 575 calls in 2019 including 38 fires, 175 medical assists, 45 vehicle accidents, and 150 false alarms. Completed 283 fire inspections in 2019 and oversaw the annual certification of 23 vulnerable occupancies.

Parks, fields and trails – Maintaining 21 playgrounds, eight ball fields, three soccer fields, five multi-sport courts, 48 kilometres of trails, and 13 gazebos and shelters.

Community centres – Operates and maintains two arenas and other assets, which supported 119 events, 31 of which are annual events significant to the community.

Water and wastewater budgets

The water and wastewater operating and capital budgets are funded entirely by user rates and connection charges. The municipality operates six drinking water systems and two wastewater treatment plants.

The proposed 2020 water operating budget is $4.2 million. The proposed 2020 wastewater operating budget is $4.5 million.

The combined water and wastewater capital budget is $36.8 million.

Following the first budget meeting on Tuesday, January 28, Council is scheduled to continue its deliberations from Jan. 29-31. The meetings will begin at 9 am each day. Note, the meeting schedule is subject to change. Visit the County website for the most up-to-date schedule.

Click the following links to learn more about the proposed 2020 budget:

Visit the County website to view the budget documents 

Read the budget context report prepared by Marcia Wallace, Chief Administrative Officer 

View the budget overview presentation prepared by Amanda Carter, Director of Finance

Attend the Council deliberations at Shire Hall (280 Picton Main Street) or watch the meetings live online 

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