Budget 2013: Still a Little Too Rich

Updated February 1.

The 2013 Town budget was finalized in January.  I was not happy with the budget and did not vote in favor. Below I explain why.

This fall, the majority of Council voted to increase revenues by 7% annually for the next 8 years to erase our infrastructure deficit (lots of bridges are nearing replacement time, for example) and to build healthy reserves. This does not mean your local tax bill will go up by 7%, because the town is growing, and that will provide 1.8%.

Note: The average tax increase for 2013, when all levels are accounted for, is estimated at 3.7% for a home with an average MPAC assessment. Those below average will pay less. Those above will pay more.

I feel our town tax rate is too high. I did not agree with the 7% annual revenue increase because Council did not critically examine how it currently spends money in order to find places to cut costs.

Here are three areas where I believe we over-spend:

Non-union staff salaries are competitive and their benefits generous. When we hire staff, they are placed into a pay grid and given an automatic raise each year until they reach the top of their grid. The majority of staff will gets raises this year due to changing from from a 5-step grid to a 7-step grid. Traditionally, all non-unionized staff also get a 2% cost-of-living (COL) raise. I object to giving a COL raise to anyone also getting a grid step-up raise, because that makes the average raise over 4%. The COL should be limited only to those not entitled to a grid raise. If we did that, we'd save over $40,000 in 2013 and more in following years because of the compounding effect of annual raises.

UpdateSince our unionized staff get at a COL that we are contractually bound to, it makes more sense to address the COL issue for 2014 when the union contract comes up for renewal.

Almonte Daycare receives tax dollars annually for capital costs for the town-owned building it uses rent-free, plus a grant to cover an operational shortfall (mostly salaries). In 2007, daycare asked for just $3,200. Each year, the request has grown: this year, the daycare budget asks for nearly $129,000, 2% of town taxes. Daycare is an important service for young families (159 children from 106 families use it), but I firmly believe too much is being asked of the taxpayer. (In contrast, the Linda Lowe daycare in Pakenham operates without a taxpayer subsidy.)  

We will pay $43,800 to Carleton Place (CP) in 2013 so our residents can use the CP library, plus $71,700 more so our residents can use the CP pool and arena. The problem is that CP does not pay us directly for the use of our library and arena by CP residents.

The library portion needs immediate review. Our libraries collect about $1000 annually in paid memberships for 210 user who live in CP and 61 from Beckwith. It is a feeble attempt at reciprocity. It fails in its purpose. That income averages to $3.69 per user. (Memberships can be for families, a child or individuals.)

At present, the CP library has 658 active Miss Mills members. That means they levy an average charge of  $66.56 each annually. We pay 18 times more per capita than we collect. we should renegotiate the agreement to achieve some savings.

Update: I presented a motion to end the overblown subsidy to Carleton Place as the first step to negotiating a better deal. While the motion did get support from Councillors Wilkinson, Minnille, and Cameron, the majority chose to support the status quo. 


Anonymous said...

Point #1 - you are off base and this is the industry standard. We want to attract non-union staff who are not simple (as they run the township) and we need to stay competitive especially with Ottawa down the road who pays way more for non-union municipal (and federal) staff.

Point #2 - I am still not sure about. Need to do some more research. Thanks for bringing it up, otherwise I would have had no idea.

Point #3 - I could not agree with you more.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with anonymous option #1. I agree more with Shaun. I'd go further in saying that MM should not be in the business of providing careers for people, meaning all required activities of MM should be outsourced including Union Jobs. In this economy there is a great deal of qualified labour willing and able to work and we have no business trying to compete with Ottawa. MM is not and should not be a "cash for life" enterprise!!