Central Huron moving ahead with 2021 budget
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
The 2021 Central Huron budget is moving ahead with a proposed three per cent increase to its municipal tax levy. The total draft levy is just over $7.7 million and the proposed increase represents an injection of an additional $330,458 into the budget.
When all three budgets (municipal, Huron County, school board) budgets are factored in, Central Huron’s proposed budget equates to a 1.81 per cent tax rate increase for Central Huron residents. That is an increase of $22.36 per $100,0000 of residential property assessment.
Treasurer Jeff Boyes presented his first draft of the 2021 consolidated municipal budget at a special budget meeting held on March 9. He also took the opportunity to detail Central Huron’s general operating levy of over $6.6 million, which is nearly $1.8 million higher than it was in 2020.
Boyes is also proposing taking more out of Central Huron’s reserves than the municipality is putting back. In 2021, Boyes recommends transferring just over $1.5 million to reserves, while taking just under $2 million back out.
The municipality is entering the year with a surplus of over $1.6 million, though taxation revenue left the municipality with a small deficit of $43,700.
Boyes also detailed a number of effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the municipality, including lost revenue at municipal facilities of just under $175,000, an increase in YMCA costs of over $82,000 and lost casino and gaming revenue of over $200,000. The municipality has, however, received a Safe Restart grant of $52,000 and COVID-19 Recovery grant funding of over $77,000.
He added that, because it has been so difficult to tabulate, he is unsure of exactly how much the municipality has saved as a result of the pandemic, so he couldn’t provide a fair comparison between the gains and losses related to the pandemic.
Some of the large operating increases for the year include a 1.5 per cent increase to salaries, which results in an additional $42,020 needed in the budget. The municipal drains budget will see an increase of over $162,000, insurance will increase by nearly $79,000 and Albert Street communication costs will cost $36,500. This is all in addition to a decrease of nearly $410,000 in grant funding and a decrease in the municipality’s surplus of just under $520,000.
Boyes also detailed the rise in levy requirements in the coming years, saying levy requirements in 2022 and 2023 are estimated to be nearly $8 million, which is over $210,000 greater than the requirements in this year’s proposed budget and considered one-time adjustments that have been made to the 2021 budget that are unlikely to continue.
Though no one can know for sure, Boyes also told council the budget is planning for a return to pre-pandemic revenue levels for recreation facilities, casino and gaming revenue and the YMCA at the Central Huron Community Complex.
Within the proposed reserve transfers, Boyes is recommending that nearly $370,000 be put away in the municipality’s roads reserve to repave Hullett-McKillop Road. However, with several councillors critical of the shape that road is in, they would eventually recommend putting away more money for the project in the coming years. Specifically, council identified $231,042 for a base coat on Tipperary Line as something that could wait in lieu of redirecting those funds to Hullett-McKillop Road.
Council didn’t make an official decision on that change, but asked Boyes to return to the next budget meeting with some options to consider.
Boyes also detailed over $5.5 million in capital expenses that will be carried into 2021 because the money wasn’t spent last year. The big-ticket item is $5 million that had been set aside for the purchase of the former Bluewater Youth Centre, a deal that has yet to close. There is also the replacement of a tandem truck for over $300,000, a new filter at the sewage treatment plant for nearly $107,000, paving of Community Centre Road in Clinton for just under $90,000 and paving of the Holmesville Hall parking lot for nearly $43,000.
There are also a number of projects that have been pre-approved in the 2021 budget, totalling over $2.5 million. By far the biggest item in that budget is the Albert Street project (Clinton’s main street) for over $1.85 million. Other projects include street lighting, a digital sign for the Central Huron Fire Department, waterproofing joints on a culvert along Fish and Game Line, replacing a bridge on Fish and Game Line, the Spooner’s Lane light tunnel and two new pickup trucks.
Council was satisfied with Boyes’ budget and the proposed tax rate increase of three per cent. Councillor Alex Westerhout said three per cent was a bit higher than what he was hoping for, but that he was fine with the budget as presented.
There were two other items up for discussion at the meeting. The first was a potential change to the municipality’s façade grant, reducing the maximum grant amount from $5,000 to $3,000. Councillors, however, were not in favour of that change, and voted to remain at a maximum of $5,000.
Also, Councillor Alison Lobb put forward a motion that $50,000 be inserted into the budget for the creation of economic development videos meant to attract visitors to the municipality. That motion will also return to council’s next budget meeting, with Mayor Jim Ginn recommending that the money be sourced from the municipality’s tax stabilization fund, if council sees fit to approve it.
Boyes will make the minor adjustments recommended by council and return with a second draft of the budget to council’s next budget meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, March 23.