Saugeen Shores initial budget meetings for 2019 have begun and, at the outset, numbers revolve around the unexpected and rapid growth that has been, and is anticipated to continue, in the municipality.
At the first Operations Budget meeting on Tuesday (Jan. 8), it was recognized that Saugeen Shores is the fastest-growing community in Grey and Bruce counties which means that services are in much-demand to meet the growing population.
“One of the biggest challenges,” said Town CAO David Smith, “is that of the labour shortage. People demand and expect more in services and, although there are many good ideas, resources are limited.”
Each town department presented budgets that reflect the growth and resulting increases in financial operational needs, including increases in staff to provide the services.
“We are in competition with other communities for economic development and as a tourist destination,” said Smith. “If everything is approved on the budget, we should end up with an increase of around three per cent, depending on the County coming in at around a four per cent increase. The only exception, of course, is the new Police Services Headquarters that will be handled separately and will result in approximately $30 annually per property.”
Growth in the municipality is also a result of a concentrated effort on economic development in conjunction with Bruce Power Nuclear and, therefore, the position of an Economic Development Officer and increase to the Human Resources payroll area were approved. Among others that were deemed necessary were: an additional police officer, crossing guard at Northport Elementary School, a conditional snow plow operator and the transfer from part-time to full-time of the By-law Enforcement Officer.
“With growth in the community comes the need for more law enforcement,” said Police Chief Mike Bellai. “We look at what the community needs while trying to stay on budget. As the population grows, the number of officers required will be on an evidence-based need. We are always looking at efficiencies, such as not having a front-line officer doing tasks such as fingerprinting or court attendance. Like other communities however, we are seeing more drugs and human trafficking and it requires a real effort to stay on top of it.”
“The primary reason that Chief Bellai was brought in was because of his extensive experience in drug enforcement,” added Mayor Luke Charbonneau, “so that the community can be as aggressive as possible against these issues.”
Chief Bellai added that it is anticipated that the new headquarters building will be ready for move-in in the Fall of this year.
Among the many other matters raised was that of the local ‘Landfill’ hours of operation and costs. Mayor Luke Charbonneau proposed that the landfill extend hours to include opening on Mondays and to consider a pay-as-you-throw system analysis. “We are seeing illegal dumping of garbage and we need to revisit the system,” he said. “Perhaps we can look at a first-bag free and after that an increased cost per bag. In any event, I would like to see a comprehensive study done.” Saugeen Shores Director, Infrastructure and Development Services, Amanda Froese, said that the Landfill had a life expectancy of 15 years. Extending year-round hours to include Monday openings was approved at a nominal cost.
Deputy Mayor, Don Matheson, also questioned Froese as to whether or not the municipality water system could meet the increased summer population need. “Through the year,” said Froese, “we use 40 to 60 per cent capacity and, in the summer, there is a demand for 90 per cent. Therefore, that’s why we put on a water ban in the summer to ensure that we have adequate drinking water and fire protection availability.”
While the day-long budget meeting looked at the cost of operating the town’s services, it was only the first initial budget deliberation and one that will see a tentative tax levy increase of approximately $100 per year per property, subject to integration with the County and Education budgets.
The municipal ‘Capital Budget’ deliberations are due to begin on January 22nd.