Saturday, July 20, 2024

‘We still have some work to do’: Brockville council faces budget increase similar to last year

Brockville City Hall

At their first meeting of the new year, Brockville City Council heard a report including the 2024 budget, the city department’s capital and an update on community partners. The meeting was originally scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 9, but was postponed to Thursday, Jan. 11 due to weather conditions. 

Mayor Matt Wren prefaced the conversation by saying “ the capital budget as proposed is looking for an increase of about $2 million. We’re kind of in the same vicinity of the tax increase that we faced last year.

“I’m not so sure our residents are up for facing that sort of an increase two years in a row,” Wren continued. “If you’re looking at other communities, we’re not the only ones that are dealing with high inflation and the impacts of that.” 

Following Mayor Wren’s remarks,  Lynda Ferguson, director of finance and IT services with the City of Brockville, opened the discussion by reading the current budget projections for the community partners as well as reviewing the proposed capital projects since the Nov. 28, 2023 meeting.

“The net year over year increase for the community partners was $1.2 million, or 7.3 per cent,” Ferguson said. “The $1.2 million also directs a 3 per cent increase in the levy. The joint services budget came back with a 7.37 per cent increase. That’s just the latest package. It’s not approved, but it’s the latest number that I have.”

Ferguson explained that while the 2023 levy was about $1.6 million, the 2024 levy is standing around $ 2.6 million. She continued, “The other change that has occurred within the community partners section is the recommendation of putting the allocation for the University Hospitals Kingston Foundation (UHKF) and the allocation for Sherwood Park Manor to be funded by debt.”

“This would total $325,000 for UHKF, and $500,000 for Sherwood Park Manor, built to be funded over multiple years, but it’s a total of $125,000.” Ferguson outlined. 

The Frontenac Arch Biosphere received funding of $6,200 in 2023 and has asked Brockville City Council for $19,000 in 2024.

“This is a $12,800 increase and is a discretionary expenditure for council,” explained Mayor Wren. When asked for comment.

Councillor Kalivas spoke up, saying, “I would move that we reduce the number closer to what we did last year.”

Councillor Wales countered, “I just wonder if we can provide any sort of increase to account for inflation. Certainly I can appreciate not providing the ask, but providing the same as last year is an effective decrease.” 

Councillor Cameron Wales also sits on the board of the Brockville Public Library and was able to provide some optimistic news. Wales announced that the library was able to decrease their budget request by $10,000 moving into 2024. He elaborated, “that takes it from an 8.9 per cent increase over last year down to a 7.5 per cent increase. I’m pleased to report that it doesn’t have any service level impacts.”

Councillor Wales continued, “I’ll remind everyone that still 6 per cent of that 7.5 per cent is due to the pay equity increase that was signed to the library so that is still an obligation that needs to be carried out. Even if we were to lower the amount of funds, we’d still have to cover that cost or else we’d see some very serious service level impacts with the library.” 

Councillor Wales personally thanked the library for taking another look at their budget, saying “they were able to help us out a little bit with our financial situation. One may think it’s only $10,000 but every little bit counts.” 

Chief of Police Mark Noonan attended the meeting as a representative from Brockville Police. Mayor Wren addressed Noonan and said, “I’m sorry to put you on the spot chief but I’m just wondering if there’s anything that the Brockville Police Service can do to take a second look at your budget?” 

Chief Noonan responded, “we met as a senior management team as of today looking forward to 2024 and we’re identifying where to mitigate but we can not put anything forward at this time for council. There are outstanding grant decisions that have come in that we are looking at mitigating right now, but we as a service are content with what we’ve presented to council as a percentage ”

The Aquatarium at Tall Ships Landing was represented by board member Councillor Wales.

“Of course the Aquatarium has worked very hard to get their costs under control but there are some pretty significant items coming up,” Wales said.

“There’s capital items that will need to be taken care of and of course the general operating pressures of running an organization like the Aquatarium,” he continued. “If anything, I would suggest that the director of finance might be able to get in touch with the director at the Aquatarium to discuss. This would look like the Aquatarium taking on certain tasks that are currently being completed by the City staff.”

He finished by stating, “That’s the only avenue I’d be able to present at this time.” 

Lynda Ferguson was called upon to share the Aquatarium budget. She stated that after reviewing and implementing the current insurance figures, the budget is now $170-175,000. 

This was a noticeable increase from their original estimated budget of $140,000.

“We all know what inflation’s done and we all know the Aquatarium is not responsible for the rising cost of insurance,” said Wren. “They do have fundraising capabilities and they know that, and we know that.”

The joint services budget was also presented this week, and Mayor Wren announced that Brockville’s share increased by 285, or 7.37 per cent. He emphasized, “It’s not going to go any higher, but there is a possibility that it could get lower. We still have some work to do.” 

For more information and to view the full Brockville City Council meeting, you can visit ​​https://brockville.civicweb.net/Portal/MeetingInformation.aspx?Org=Cal&Id=2312

For more information and to view the full Brockville City Council meeting, you can visit ​​https://brockville.civicweb.net/Portal/MeetingInformation.aspx?Org=Cal&Id=2312

Leave a Reply

You cannot copy content from this page, please share the link instead!