County council surveys and approves budget changes

HALIBURTON COUNTY COUNCIL

Trimmed budget sets up 1.99 percent in levy passed on to tax

By Terrance Gavan

Minden– Provincial austerity measures are placing extreme pressure on municipal budgets inOntario.Ontario’s bleak fiscal outlook and increased county spending propelledHaliburtonCounty to slash their original 2012 draft budget by $215,000.

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Haliburton County approves budget. File Photo.

County Council rolled out the 2012 budget changes during a special meeting on Tuesday (April 3) and councilors passed the 2012 revised budget while giving kudos to County Treasurer Laura Janke and department heads for trimming their original budget estimates.

On Tuesday morning Janke reported that county departments managed to decrease that original budget estimate through major cuts to roads ($124,000 from capital projects reductions), administration ($30,000), buildings ($36,000), social services and housing ($14,400) and computer upgrades ($9,900).

The original budget totaled $12.343 million and the new draft shows $12.128 million in charges to levy.

Janke told the Highlander on Tuesday afternoon that the budget review and call for changes was based on the county’s need to rationalize a funding shortfall of $332,000 due to losses in Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) monies.

“Janke explained that this year’s levy is $12,128,000 compared to the $11,776,400 levy in the 2011 budget – an increase of $350,000. That translates to a 2.99 percent rise in the county levy, but that is softened by a 1 percent growth based on 2011 additions to county assessments. Thus the net increase in the levy passed on through taxes totals 1.99 percent.” “We have some growth this year, and the main cuts we found are on capital and roads,” she said. For their part the provincial government rationalizes cuts to OMPF with talk of additional uploads to other transfers.

Of course none of that helps council who are watching OMPF targets drop precipitously on a continuum. But county spending is also being scrutinized and most of the councilors agreed that they must continue to pare expenses moving forward.

“We’re spending money faster than the growth of county,” saidCountyWardenand Dysart et al Reeve Murray Fearrey. There was an air of resignation in the council chambers as most councilors agreed that the provincial transfers, based on last week’s budget were going to force the county to investigate further cuts to county spending in the coming years.

Councilor and Minden Reeve Barb Reid said that it was time for the county to forge ahead with its own austerity agenda. “Over the last two years we’ve added $800,000 in costs,” said Reid. “We really have to continue to examine if we have someone that leaves [/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][a position] do we need to replace that person? Provincial funding cannot be counted on. And we have to look at the decisions we made over the last couple of years. Next year is going to be brutal.”

The Tuesday morning meeting was further complicated by the $4 millionEMSbudget. Emergency Services Director Pat Kennedy said that he and Janke had been in contact and on standby over the weekend and on Monday waiting for the province to release the provincial grant transfers to the county’sEMSbudget. However, as we went to press theEMSand Janke are still awaiting an announcement from theOntariogovernment regarding ambulance service funding.

Kennedy said that since the announcement from the provincial government was not forthcoming, council would have to approve the budget based on last year’s allocations.

The assumptions refer to the traditional Land Ambulance Funding Grant, which in previous years has been targeted at 50 percent of the total budget forCountyEMS. Kennedy explained that the 2012 budget for theEMSwas developed using the historical Ministry of Health funding formula plus a one percent inflationary increase.

Kennedy said that his staff has stuck to council guidelines that earmarked a zero increase in theEMSbudget from 2011 to 2012. The addition of a new ambulance unit and staff is planned for the fall of 2012. It’s necessary to keep response times at rational limits said Kennedy. ThecountyEMSis stressed by the addition of new housing and increased territory.

“The department will defer the hiring of additional full time staff until such time as the Province announces the Haliburton County 2012 Land Ambulance Grant,” said Kennedy.

“We are doing in excess of 280 out of county calls per year,” said Kennedy. “And we have new lots planned inBarkLake,KirstyLakeandHaliburtonLakeand we need to be prepared for that. My goal is to provide better service inHaliburtonCounty.”

The budget assumptions are based on the traditional Land Ambulance Funding Grant, which in previous years has been targeted at 50 percent of the total budget forCountyEMS.

Kennedy explained that the tentative budget for theEMSwas developed using the historical Ministry of Health funding formula plus a one percent inflationary increase. “We take the budget and divide the land ambulance budget in half,” said Kennedy. “We are going ahead under the assumption that the province will come thru with that 50 percent grant.”

Both Kennedy and Janke are hoping that the province will come through this week with the expected $2.08 million 2012 provincial land ambulance grant.

Otherwise, the planned fall addition of that new ambulance team could be in jeopardy.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]