Draft Budget proposed for 2017 overview
by Sandy Lindsay

November 24, 2016

Town Council

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It's that time of year again when the Municipality begins looking at budgets and, on Tuesday, November 15th, Saugeen Shores Council and staff spent the entire day going over the numbers for the Operations budget.

Each department head came to Council with what they anticipate it will take to run their day-to-day operations and also with a wish list. to meet some goals that have been established for 2017.

The 2017 proposed budget tax levy so far is an increase of 4.04 per cent and, when combined with the County and School Board, will be 4.01 per cent.  The resulting municipal impact on an average household of $282,000 will be $73.98 for the year or $117.60 with the combined rate.

Combined tax levy:

In comparison with other municipalities throughout Ontario, Saugeen Shores is in fact in the low end of taxes payable on a single family bungalow.  When compared to income however, Saugeen Shores is rated at the higher end of the scale but the percentage of income toward the municipal tax budget was at the low end at 3.3 per cent in 2016.

As with most investments, the numbers are expected to be down given interest rates.  In 2016, investment income and other interest was $680,634 and it is expected that in 2017, that will come in at $666,029.  Much of the decrease is due to local improvement loans being paid off.

When it comes to revenue sources, municipalities are limited, with the largest portion (49%) coming from the tax levy and user fees (34%).

When it comes to administration, salaries and benefits take up the largest chunk of the administrative budget at $1,443,256 up from 2016 at $1,310,565.

Several areas that had a zero per cent increase in 2016 will see a two per cent increase for 2017, including things such as Refreshment Vehicle Permits from $ 175 to $178.50 and a Bingo Licence from $50 to $51.

The 2017 budget will also see the final five-year installment of $40,000 for the town's commitment of $200,000 to the Saugeen Memorial Hospital expansion.

Operating Expenses:

In 2016, there were several areas of achievements that centered around administration, such as the recruitment of a new CAO, completion of the Development Charges Background Study and By-law and an implementation of a new organizational review but there are several goals for 2017, such as completion of the Strategic Plan, a Financial Reserves strategy and completion of a Pay Equity review.

Fire Service

According to Fire Chief Phil Eagleson, the Fire Service saw many achievements in 2016.  "We replaced the self-contained breathing apparatus which was critical, continued implementation of the Fire Master Plan recommendations and continued priority for Firefighter wellness and training to achieve NFPA certifications."

He also explained the goals for 2017, including establishing interoperable radio communications with the Saugeen Shores Police Service.  "We also have to look at recruitment of volunteer firefighters as we are going to experience some retirements and increasing training opportunities to be available locally."

Eagleson said that 2016 was a very busy year for 'call-outs' for the department covering every aspect from fires to lake rescues and accidents.  "We are also undergoing continued pressure of Nuclear Emergency Planning which is  part of the Provincial Nuclear Emergency Response Plan.  In addition, we have to ensure that personnel receive PTSD and CISM (critical incident stress management) supports following traumatic emergency responses.

Deputy Mayor Luke Charbonneau said that, in 2016 there was a 'fees and charges' freeze.  "This is an extremely cost effective service and we have to pay our volunteers more money.  Fees and charges should be increased at least by COLA (cost of living) as everything else keeps going up."

Councilor Mike Myatt asked what the rate for 'call-outs' was for the volunteers and Eagleson said that it was $28.75/hr.  "Many other services have a minimum 'call-out' pay-out of three hours," said Eagleson, "but our volunteers only have a one-hour minimum."  Myatt said that he considered the rate to be low and that the town should look at increasing it.  "I think at some point, we have to take a look at this."

The tax levy portion attributed to Fire Service is 7 per cent.

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Police Service:

Saugeen Shores Police have faced a past year of continuing challenges with a facility that does not meet today's policing requirements or standards and also questions raised around an alternative to local policing.

As part of its request for a new facility, the Service held two public meetings in order to gather input and suggestions from the public at large. 

Also, in addition, as part of it's work toward completion of the mandated 2017-2019 Business Plan, a community survey was conducted. From the survey, it was determined that 72% of respondents consider it important to continue with local policing.

"For 2017 goals, we are asking for two councilors to sit on our Strategic Planning sessions."

Chief Dan Rivett also explained that the Province may be discontinuing the Community Policing Partnerships Grant of $30,000 per year and the 1,000 Officers Grants of $35,000 beginning in April.  "It's unclear right now, the impact that will have on future funding."

According to Chief Rivett, there has been a serious influx of drugs, including crystal-methamphetamine into the community that is requiring extensive policing.  "We are working as much as possible with partner detachments.  When you (Mayor Smith) and I were sitting on the committee that was looking into this problem, we could not even provide data as we did not have the problem here in Saugeen Shores.  We are a higher end community and, therefore, we have 'higher end' drugs.  We also have 'have nots' in our community who rely on the inexpensive drugs like crystal meth and once you get hooked on it, the survival rate is three per cent.  We continue to work with our partners including the task force established some time ago, because we now have the same issues."

"Devoting more staff time is what is needed.  We have two staff who are tied up with major investigations, including drugs and sexual assaults, and we could probably use four people in that area," said Rivett.  "It's out there and we need to double our resources."

 According to Rivett, there is a one-time blip for 2016 due to legal fees regarding a personnel matter.

Councilor Diane Huber raised the issue around dispatch as it is performed out of Owen Sound and  Owen Sound is looking at costing out OPP and, therefore, wanted to know if that would impact Saugeen Shores, as it is done for both fire and police services. ($35,000 and $116,000 respectively)

"With today's technology, dispatch can be performed anywhere and there are several services that offer the service," said Rivett, "and maybe down the road it is something we can look at."

When asked by Councilor Don Matheson if police were going into the high school in a drug awareness program, Rivett explained that there is a liaison officer who goes into the high school on request to talk about issues such as bullying, drugs, cyber problems and peer pressue.  Officers go into each elementary school for the D.A.R.E. program that begins in grade five and by the time they reach high school, hopefully they remember D.A.R.E."

Matheson, a teacher, said that he understands that four out of five students have tried marijhuana.  "How can we combat that given this is a 'high end' community?" he asked.

"It comes down to education and resources," said Rivett.  "When you start looking at any police service across the province, OPP or otherwise, you've got three major players when dealing with drugs ... you have the local detachment or service, the province through the OPP and the RCMP.  Everybody is getting cut back and cut back.  Once you start cutting back in the area of the RCMP, that we used to partner with on a regular basis and they are now bare-bones,  that's when the effects of drugs have an impact."

"Now they are breaking into homes and vehicles to support their habit, something that we've seen over the past weeks, and it requires education and resources."

Budget in 2016 was $3,619,000 and, proposed for 2017 is $3,730,300 an increase of three per cent.

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Thursday, November 24, 2016