City Council deliberated and approved the 2020 budget during Monday evening’s meeting.
This budget, which sees an increase of 1.47 per cent, upping it to $119,167,172, will see services maintained at current levels, a number of capital projects moving forward and the approval of many supplemental funding requests.
This new budget also sees a taxpayer increase of 3.63 per cent on their 2020 property bills. 1.47 per cent of this increase is due to municipality spending, while the remaining 2.16 per cent is because of increases from levy boards and outside agencies.
Council also received a $400,000 dividend from PUC, a result of profit, which will be used to cover internal debt for 2020. Any remaining internal debt for 2020 will be added to the levy, after the surplus from 2019 is allocated. This will be distributed equally each year from 2021 until 2024.
A recommendation by City finance staff to fund a number of capital works projects using internal debt was unanimously accepted by council, with a plan of approximately $2.1 million in projects. Council also agreed to up the capital budget by $200,000 to help internal debt in 2020.
The only project that didn’t receive funding in the capital budget was an ask for traffic cameras on Bay Street to help manage traffic flow. Instead, the lights will run on a timer.
A number of adjustments will see some changes in the Sault, as well as the addition of supplemental items to the levy, including:
- hiring a third-party parking bylaw enforcement for outside the downtown core costing $25,000.
- continuing the Clergue Park skating trail for another year, along with block party programs, costing $6,473.
- boosting security at the Northern Community Centre, costing $5,000
- $96,659 for community development and enterprise services annual programming – council approved half of that amount, with the remainder to be added in 2021,
- $50,000 for arts, culture and heritage – council approved the same two-year allocation,
- $237,956 for apprenticeship positions – one in carpentry, electrical and HVAC – by Public Works and Traffic – council approved funding for one apprentice, adding $79,318 to the budget, with consideration of increasing the number again in the 2021 budget,
- $30,000 for traffic engineering advisory services,
- $4,000 for fire service officer training, with an additional $1,000 for fire emergency vehicle training,
- $2,200 in-kind for the Queen St. Cruise,
- $50,000 for the Physician Recruitment and Retention Program, who will see a shortfall from their own $90,000 reserve
“It’s a very responsible budget,” Mayor Christian Provenzano said at the end of the four-hour deliberation.
He continued, saying that there was a lot of hard work put into bringing the budget to a starting point of just over one per cent, helping council eliminate the need for potentially making hard decisions on cuts. This allowed council to find the balance that maintains costs and still invests in the community, he said.
The only councillor in opposition of the budget was Ward One’s Sandra Hollingsworth, who was adamant that infrastructure wasn’t getting the attention or money needed.
In 2019, a budget increase of 3.53 per cent was approved – an internal increase of 2.55 per cent, and levy boards and outside agencies of 0.99 per cent.
The year-end audit in March will determine any surplus from the 2019 budget. The city’s tax rate will be determined at that time as well, determining the actual dollar figure of the increase.