Morris-Turnberry approves its 2022 budget
BY DENNY SCOTT
Morris-Turnberry Council has approved the final draft of its budget, asking staff to bring the document back to its next meeting for adoption by bylaw.
The first draft of the budget started with a potential taxation increase of approximately $524,000 according to Director of Finance Sean Brophy, and he and other staff were able to drop that by nearly $85,000 before the document was presented to council on March 1. Later in the meeting, council would decide to give North Huron approximately $115,000 to offset the usage of North Huron recreation facilities instead of the requested $242,000, further reducing the budget. After that, Brophy told council the increase to taxpayers, when including the county and education tax increases, would be around 4.9 per cent.
At the March 1 meeting, Brophy highlighted a number of changes to the document that staff had made to reduce the overall tax levy.
Staff reduced the drainage budget by approximately $10,000, Brophy said, by reviewing benefits and expenses projections and bringing them closer to the actual amount spent in 2021 and previous years.
After finalizing the 2021 building department expenses, Brophy said the municipality was able to decrease the department budget and levy by $5,000 thanks to revenue added for septic system inspections.
“Normally [the inspections] would’ve started in 2021, but it was delayed due to COVID-19,” Brophy explained. “As a result we’ve included an estimated revenue of $5,000 and taken $5,000 from the tax levy as a result.”
The Morris-Turnberry roads expenses for 2021 came in higher than anticipated, Brophy said, and, as a result, he recommended removing $13,000 that was earmarked for reserves to compensate for the extra bills. He also told council that the municipality’s new roller, which was expected to cost $20,000, actually cost $10,000, so he was able to remove $10,000 from the 2022 tax levy.
As far as general government expenses, Brophy was happy to report that administration for the municipality came in lower than anticipated, meaning council could put more funds away for the Bluevale road correction project. Originally, staff suggested putting away $60,000 for the project, which will fix a historical land-use issue with Highway 86, but with the surplus, Brophy instead suggested putting away $100,000, which would allow staff to save an additional $40,000.
Brophy also said the municipality’s general government expenses ended up coming in under budget for 2021, so he was able to recommend putting $25,000 in the general working reserve, reducing the amount put away in 2022 by $25,000, and thus reducing the tax levy.
Brophy told council that prices for fire coverage came in higher than anticipated, but that could be absorbed, and he also adjusted the budget for the Brussels Fire Hall renovation project. Originally, the project was going to be drawn from reserves in 2022, however he was able to spread funding for the project over two years, with 25 per cent coming from reserves in 2022 with the remainder to be paid in 2023.
As far as recreation costs, council decided to fund two local community centres outside of North Huron from COVID-19 funds after receiving information on the hardships faced by the Belmore and Bluevale Community Centres over 2021. The centres will receive $10,000 and $5,000 respectively, which will be drawn from the municipality’s emergency COVID-19 fund provided by the provincial government.
Brophy explained that the Bluevale Hall volunteer committee had run a deficit of $620 over 2022, and suggested council use $650 of the COVID-19 fund, which was at $79,500.
Councillor Jim Nelemans, however, felt council should make use of the COVID-19 fund and give the committee $3,000, saying the committee should be able to continue to put away funds for projects.
Brophy said he wasn’t aware of any kind of deadline by which the municipality needed to use the money, and that council had, in the past, taken a more measured approach to dispersing the funds to make sure the reserve wasn’t drained prematurely.
“If we want to be more aggressive, we could give them more, but the question is will we have enough left [for another COVID-19 wave]?” Brophy said. “I’d hate to give it all away, and then we go into another lockdown and not have any left.”
Nelemans said he would hate to return the money if that was necessary.
Zinn was in favour of the move, saying the municipality had already made the necessary changes for COVID-19, including enabling staff to work from home and setting up safety measures in the municipal office.
Brophy said, if council wished, the municipality could give the committee $3,500, which was approximately what had been generated through rentals in previous years.
Nelemans said he wanted to give the committee for the Bluevale Hall $5,000 and the Belmore Community Centre board $10,000.
Council passed the motion for the $5,000 donation immediately, and did approve the $10,000 one as well, but not before staff recommended they wait until Howick Council, where the centre is located, decided what funding it was going to make available.
Chief Administrative Officer Trevor Hallam said the funding likely wouldn’t be tied to a timeframe, saying that those kinds of funds are prefaced with strict reporting requirements, which didn’t apply to the COVID-19 funding.
Council went against staff’s recommendation and approved the funding for the two groups.
Council also decided, after a lengthy debate, to provide North Huron with $115,000 instead of the $245,000 that was requested from North Huron, based on the percentage of users of recreation memberships and recreation program usage.
As a result of the discussions, council approved a budget requiring a tax levy of approximately $4,467,000, an increase of $363,972, or a 4.9 per cent increase in taxes. The final numbers, which will be dependent on changes made by Huron County Council to its budget, will be presented at a future council meeting.