2020 budget process continues in Smiths Falls
It is that time of year again, when municipalities start planning their budgets for the coming year.
“We’re looking for direction from council on budget expectation to guide us in the preparation of the 2020 draft budget,” town Treasurer Janet Kozeil (pictured below), told council in a presentation at the Special Committee of the Whole on October 7.
“Cost of living should be the basis of our budget,” said Councillor Jay Brennan to general agreement around the horseshoe.
Kozeil went on to explain that staff have started assembling the operating budget based on current levels of service and will incorporate 17 priority capital projects identified in the Asset Management Plan and Strategic Plan in the first draft. “So all 17 items will have a budget line attached to them in the first draft,” explained CAO Malcolm Morris.
Those priorities include developing accessibility around Old Slys, park improvements and waterfront trail plans, expansion of the urban forest and the Beckwith reconstruction and downtown revitalization.
However there are headwinds that staff are grappling with as they work through the first draft.
“There are a number of undetermined factors that will have a direct impact on the 2020 budget,” said Kozeil.
These include uncertainty around the allocation of the Ontario Municipal Partnership fund; while the province says the total envelope will remain the same, they’ve also indicated that allocations within the various components of the fund may be re-defined for each municipality. Clarification is not expected until mid November, according to Kozeil. “We typically get OCIF funding, but we have not received an allocation for 2020. So lots of uncertainty from the provincial government,” she said.
There is also some uncertainty around assessment growth. Although the town has experienced robust residential and industrial growth over the past year, “preliminary calculations suggest additional taxation revenue will be minimal due to the 2020 phase in assessment…” Kozeil wrote in the report to council. Shared service agreements with the county are also still uncertain.
“We’ve been in talks with the county, and are continuing discussions around shared services,” said Kozeil.
Salary and Wage adjustments are also unknown at this time, as the town’s collective agreements with CUPE, Fire and Police all run out within months of one another, so wage settlements may not be finalized before budget approval.
The town will start pre-budget public consultations by the end of this month and staff will present the preliminary 2020 budget at the November 13 Committee of the Whole.
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