Council Approves 2019 Operating Budget
March 19, 2019
Today Council approves the 2019 Operating Budget. The 2019 Capital Budget was approved on December 18, 2018. The budget includes a number of critical projects initiated by staff, Council and community input.
As the 2019 draft budget was being prepared, it became very apparent that it would be one of the most challenging budgets in many years for both Council and Administration.
The most frustrating part of this budget is the over $ 650,000 in increases are primarily increases that are beyond our control as they are driven by external organizations. These are things such as our policing costs, social services costs and loss of provincial annualized funding.
The Senior Leadership team met on several occasions to review departmental budgets closely and to search for areas where we could reduce costs to offset the large uncontrollable impacts to the 2019 budget. Any area where administration felt could be reduced was addressed and it still left the draft budget to Council in a significant tax increase position. Council closely reviewed options for further operating cost savings and made difficult decisions to avoid a significant tax increase. This unfortunately meant that service levels and staffing impacts to the organization were directed under very close consideration. They considered all other budget areas, however, these changes were necessary to reduce the deeper impact on the tax increase for 2019.
Some of the more significant impacts the City faced in 2019 included:
- Loss of Provincial funding of $124K
- Increased policing costs of $406K
- Increased requests from other mandated External Organizations totalling $135K
- Additional Art Centre Operating Costs of $115K
Major capital projects planned for 2019 include:
- First Street Development ($7.7 million)
- Coker Bailey Bridge ($1.5 million)
- Street Lighting Electrical Distribution Upgrade ($.2 million)
Other projects of interest in the 2019 budget include:
- The Lake of the Woods Art Centre construction is expected to be completed in 2019
- The Rotary Splash Park is expected to be completed in 2019
- With the funds secured, the Pickleball Club expects the court resurfacing to be completed in the summer of 2019.
Overall financial highlights of the approved 2019 budget include:
- $48.1 million in combined operating, capital, non-capital special projects / unusual spending and reserve appropriations, broken out as follows:
- $30.6 million in operating expenses;
- $1.8 million in reserve appropriations;
- $13.6 million in capital expenses; and
- $2.1 million in non-capital special projects / unusual spending
- Combined this represents $26.3 million in net tax levy requirement
Council directed service level reductions and user fee increases to reduce the budget impacts. Some direct impacts include:
- Elimination of the Fitness Consultant position at the Kenora Recreation Centre
- Elimination of one By-Law Enforcement Officer position
- Elimination of two positions at City Hall Customer Service Area
- City Hall Reception to be moved to an automated answering system
- Increase of user fees at the Recreation Centre and City Hall
- Saturday parking to be enforced
“This budget was a particularly difficult one for Council. There were tough decisions that had to be made and finding the balance between meeting the demands and expectations of the public for day to day services and keeping the strategic vision for moving our community forward is always a struggle, especially this budget year. While some service levels are being impacted, we believe that this budget, in conjunction with the strong financial management by City Council and the Senior Leadership Team over recent years, will continue to maintain the City’s financial strength and stability.” states Mayor Daniel Reynard.
Jon Ranger, Deputy Treasurer