Amherstburg residents are being asked for their input on a proposed 2022 Operating Budget that maintains service levels while planning for the future, incorporating a new organizational structure and embracing initiatives like body cameras for By-Law officers and transportation and climate change adaptation plans.
Action items identified for 2022 include the hiring of a new CAO; the development of business plans for the Community Hub and Libro and for the capital development of the Duffy’s and Belle Vue sites; the completion of a Heritage District Plan and Official Plan and Zoning By-Law Updates; the completion of an Asset Management Plan and a Water and Wastewater Rate Study; building an economic development plan and implementing a multi-year budgeting system.
Other action items emphasize the need to focus more on preventative maintenance and lifecycle funding to shore up our infrastructure and ensure we have money to eventually replace it. Another priority identified was the need to invest in staff as we rebuild a depleted Town Hall, including the completion of a compensation review and the development of a staff training plan to “optimize the talent of staff and develop them to full potential.”
In terms of staffing, the proposed Budget includes the addition of a Roads Operator to better ensure the roads get plowed and the streets get swept, a $20,000 fund for part-time student HR help in lieu of a full-time coordinator and a part-time clerical assistant for Building and Planning.
It also calls for the addition of a Communications Officer as recommended by the Economic Development Committee and a Service Delivery Review. The position would work jointly for the CAO’s Office and Tourism Department, which reflects the hybrid role that has developed and worked so well since the onset of the pandemic.
The Economic Development Committee also recommended an Economic Development Officer. Administration estimated the annual cost at about $110,000 for that position but does not recommend it for 2022, preferring to wait until a Director, Development Services has been recruited so they can provide input and vision.
The proposed $54.2-Million Operating Budget calls for a 3.35 per cent tax increase, which would raise an additional $1.53 million in property tax revenue over the 2021 municipal levy. That works out to an increase of $33.66 for every $100,000 of assessment or $84.14 for a home assessed at $250,000 or $168.30 on a home assessed at $500,000.
Of note is that including all the Department Budget requests would have amounted to a 9.34 per cent increase but the CAO worked to lower the increase down to that 3.35 per cent level.
The Capital Budget will be presented to Council in mid-February with funding roughly equal to the 2021 Capital Budget drawn from the Capital Reserve and other Reserve Funds.
Residents are encouraged to review the proposed Operating Budget on Talk The Burg and fill out a survey by Tuesday, January 18th. Council will deliberate the Budget on January 26th and January 27th. Let me know what you think via email or by giving me a call at 519-981-4875.
Highlights of the Proposed 2022 Operating Budget:
Climate Change Adaptation Plan (Funded by $25,000 from Reserves): “A climate adaptation plan would inspire both Town Administration and community members in working together towards addressing local climate issues,” says the Budget document. “The time, efforts, and local knowledge of these individuals is crucial in building community resilience in the face of a changing climate.”
Body-Cameras for By-Law Enforcement Officers ($13,700 - $9,100 one-time cost and $4,600 Base Budget increase): This initiative would “enhance accountability and transparency” and the By-Law Officer could activate the camera to support a charge or deescalate situations. What’s interesting is that the Base Budget cost includes a $1,500 licensing fee but also a $3,100 transfer to reserves for future replacement – a prudent practice the Town has historically tended to avoid.
Transportation Master Plan ($250,000 over two years with $125,000 drawn from Reserves in 2022): “The objective of the Plan is to ensure that the Town’s transportation system can accommodate growth and meet the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, transit users, goods movement and automobiles up to 2052,” says the proposed Budget. “This plan will also include speed limit review, traffic calming and an extensive review of the downtown core which will include parking and traffic movement. The consultant who completes the study will be required to complete extensive public consultation.”
Boosting Fleet Reserve Transfer: Boosting the 2022 Fleet Transfer $250,000 to $550,000, up from $300,000 in 2021, to shore up a reserve for a fleet with a 2020 net book value of $1.9 million that is “significantly underfunded.”
Capital Funding and Reserves Transfer: An increase of just over $1 million to the annual contribution for this reserve, including $200,000 freed up because debt repayment of the Belle Vue property matured in 2021. Even with this increase, though, the Town still faces a significant shortfall when it comes to maintaining and ultimately replacing our infrastructure.
Sidewalk Maintenance and Repairs: A $15,000 increase, from $60,000 to $75,000, to allow “for more repairs and reduce the risk of sidewalk trip and fall claims.”
Water and Wastewater Rates: The proposed Budget is calling for a 10.3 per cent water rate increase over 2021 and a 9.6 per cent wastewater rate increase over 2021, which would generate an additional $975,864 in water revenues and an additional $435,612 in wastewater revenues. Those figures are being proposed because of annual percentage increases called for in the Asset Management Plan coupled with a non-residential Construction CPI rate that was 8.3 per cent in the third quarter of 2021. These rates have not been approved and the issue will be discussed during Budget deliberations.
View the CAO's presentation to Council in the box below or review this mobile-friendly version.