Perth councillors and department heads, along with media, spent four hours Friday walking through Treasurer Lang Britchford’s proposed 2018 budget of $7.2 million. In the end, it was given a thumbs-up with a two per cent increase and will be passed at council Feb.20.
Mayor John Fenik noted that “13 years ago the town was in significant financial peril. We spent $1 million more than we took in. This year, we are at, or below, the annual consumer price index (CPI) rate. We can continue to do this through innovation leading to positive change.”
Included in the budget is a wage increase for town staff of 1.5 per cent, which is lower than average. The “general turnover” shows mature staff leaving at the top of the pay scale and newer staff coming on at a lower pay scale.
Other items of note in the budget are as follows:
- the BIA shows “healthy growth and expansion;”
- the library needs roof repair;
- 2 per cent water increase (the first since 2011); and
- no change in the budget of the Police Services Board (PSB);
Britchford noted that the PSB applied for and received two grants – a $260,000 policing effectiveness and modernization grant, and a $250,000 proceeds of crime grant.
During the presentation, Councillor Jim Boldt asked why the cost of healthcare was up by 26 per cent. Britchford replied that Perth is dealing with an older population that is more dependent on healthcare and drugs as they age.
He assured Boldt that no one is abusing the system “but there are some expensive drugs to deal with. It’s in line with the national average.”
Mayor Fenik agreed. “The increase is not specific to Perth; every municipality sees this increase.”
There was also some discussion about vehicle charging stations.
Councillor Boldt asked “who pays?” as the capital cost to the town to install one is $28,000. Mayor Fenik’s opinion was that “the internal combustion engine is on the way out” and that there was an “economic spin-off” i.e. those who stop in Perth and use the charging station will be spending in town. Britchford commented that a future possibility would be to add a charge to the charging stations.
Major financial and sustainability goals include:
- managing the obligation under Ontario’s Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act;
- committing to build a reserve capacity;
- completing outstanding 2017 capital projects;
- completing automation of the water treatment plan; and
- making asset management the town’s key operational project for 2018.
The budget projects capital spending will be $11,013,127 with $1.2 million contributed to tax reserves.
The treasurer wanted it noted that “staff has been successful at securing external grant funding, which allows capital to be completed while minimizing the impact to both tax and rate payers.”
At the end of the deliberations, Mayor Fenik noted that historically a motion is made to adjourn and that name is noted in the minutes. As this is Lang Britchford’s last budget (he’s retiring this year), Fenik suggested Britchford motion to adjourn. He did.