Council receives first draft of 2021 Operating and Capital Budgets
Tim Brody - Editor
Sioux Lookout Municipal Council had its first look at the draft 2021 Operating and Capital Budgets last week.
Councillors expressed an appreciation for the work that the treasurer and department managers had put into the budget, but indicated they would like to look at ways to find additional savings.
Department managers took councillors through the budget, outlining how their operating budgets had fared over the course of 2020. Councillors then had an opportunity to go over the draft capital budget, which was broken down into already approved 2020 capital projects brought forward to 2021 and new capital projects proposed for 2021.
In total, the draft budget proposed an increase in the Municipal Operations budget of $65,899 and an increase in the Capital Projects budget of $331,500, for a total of $397,399 in proposed total taxation, representing a potential 3.5 per cent tax increase.
Other considerations council was informed of included the 2021 MPAC assessment not increasing this year, as well as an insurance premium increase of $31,758, which had not yet be factored into the draft budget.
Following the meeting, Sioux Lookout Mayor Doug Lawrance was asked by The Bulletin how the Municipality had fared amidst the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, his thoughts on the work put into the draft budget by department managers and their presentation last week, as well as council’s desire to look for additional savings.
Lawrance provided the following response, “The pandemic has created significant challenges for the Municipality: These are most pronounced at the Municipal Airport but also very significant in the Recreation and Daycare Departments. The Municipality, like most businesses and agencies, had to lay off a significant percentage of our workforce for a few months early in the pandemic. To provide some relief to ratepayers Council deferred April’s planned water and sewer rate increases to some later date to be determined. Council also helped by waiving interest and penalty charges on amounts owing to the Municipality from mid-March to the end of July. Due to the pandemic the Municipality needed to make significant expenditures on health and safety measures to protect public and staff. This included renovations to create barriers between staff and public as well as within Departments. There have also been on-going expenses for Personal Protective Equipment and supplies. Staff needed to spend considerable time developing new health and safety policies specifically related to COVID-19.”
Lawrance informed, “The draft budget presented by Staff to Council recognized that this is an unusual budget year. Staff put a lot of work into keeping the operational increase under 1%. This is especially difficult this year as the Ontario Municipal Property Assessment Corporation has decided to hold property assessments at the same values as last year. As well we are struggling with decreased revenues in several departments (Recreation, Daycare, Airport) as well as increases in Municipal insurance costs. So this is a challenging budget year for both Staff and Council.”
He concluded, “Council seemed very pleased with the changes in format for budget presentation. For the next draft of the budget Council directed Staff to undertake several tasks and revisits, including: review capital projects and prioritize and determine if any projects can be deferred and if any are suitable for longer term debt than payment in one tax year; Council asked Staff to review the operating budget for any additional possible cuts, including Council travel budgets; and Council asked Staff to present a second draft budget early in the New Year.
“In the two weeks following the first draft presentation Council will be sending Staff further observations, questions, and requests on the budget.”
Members of the public can view the entire first draft budget presentation on the Municipality’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/municipalitysiouxlookout.
People can go through the first draft budget document at: https://pub-siouxlookout.escribemeetings.com/FileStream.ashx?DocumentId=2626.
Members of the public who wish to make comments on the draft budgets are invited to do so via email – firstname.lastname@example.org – or via regular post at:
The Corporation of the Municipality of Sioux Lookout
Attn: Budget 2021
25 Fifth Avenue, P.O. Box 158
Sioux Lookout, Ontario
The Municipality advised that all input on the draft 2021 budgets is to be received by December 18, 2020 at noon.