January 17/18, 2022 Special Meeting - County Budget
The key takeaway from Council’s 2022 budget meeting is the proposed 4% tax increase. If you recall, Council approved a 0% tax increase last year. To reflect the general impact of inflation on the County’s costs and to provide staff with a cost-of-living pay raise (something they haven’t had for three years), Administration recommended a $4.1 million or 4% increase would be required for 2022.
While this pales in comparison to the 10% increase being imposed by some of our neighbouring municipalities, I believe that there needs to be a major review of the County’s finances, servicing, debt and debt servicing to identify possible efficiencies.
Administration did announce that there would be a customer satisfaction survey coming forward. Hopefully, the survey results combined with the hiring of a new CAO sometime in Q2, will help identify where these efficiencies can occur.
In addition to Administration’s recommendations, Council brought forward several
amendments. Firstly, $500,000 will be taken from the reserve for stormwater improvements that funds Policy 459. This will allow the County to address some of the 30+ projects currently sitting on that list. Admin had recommended not including any funding for these projects again, for what would be the third year in a row. Thanks to some great questioning by Councillor Hanson, Administration confirmed that there was a reserve of $577,000 built up in earlier years. By taking $500,000 from the reserve, outstanding stormwater improvements can be dealt with without any additional cost to ratepayers this year.
A request by Councillor Schule to have snowplowing continue on the Langdon’s east side of Main Street was approved 4-2 with Kissel and me in opposition. Schule recused himself from the vote as he owns property that would benefit from the request. However, his recusal came long after he had brought forward the original motion and weighed heavily into the debate.
Administration recommended discontinuing the project as the sidewalk is in front of private property, however, Schule maintained that it was part of Langdon’s pathway system. After some debate, it was decided that the east side of the road could be plowed as part of the pathways plowing programme but not the west. While the cost is minor, approximately $5000 a year, in my opinion, either we provide the service for all businesses or none.
Fees for dog licenses will be reinstated but not until January 2023. If you recall, the previous Council removed them stating they thought it would help encourage residents to license their dogs. This has not been the case. As a result, the County has been processing dog licenses for free. Come 2023, dog licensing fees will be $15 for spayed / neutered dogs and $20 for intact dogs. This is estimated to generate over $100,000 in revenue which will offset dog license processing costs as well as the costs of having officers respond to impound requests.
Lastly, Schule’s motion to continue spraying for mosquitoes in Langdon and Church Ranches was tabled unanimously. Last year, Council decided to discontinue spraying (cost of $52,000 p.a.), however, it opted to provide a one-year grace period to prepare the communities and allow them time to make their own arrangements. While I support mosquito spraying, I struggle with the service only being available to two communities and not others. The matter was tabled so other communities can weigh in as to whether this is something they would like to consider and the costs to do so. Once that information is available Council can make an informed decision as to how to best proceed.