SCUGOG: Council took the first step in the process to try to decrease a tax increase preliminarily set in the 2016 municipal operating budget at 3.29 per cent.
On Monday, Jan. 25, Councillors went through each township department in the 2016 municipal budget, making recommendations where they felt possible savings could be found.
One of those savings options was a motion brought up by Ward 5 Councillor Jennifer Back to reduce the collection line, on the Scugog Memorial Library’s portion of the budget by $500. The collection covers books, DVDs and other resources. Councillor Back said that this reduction reflects “the decreasing circulation of tangibles, for instance DVDs.”
Councillors also sought out any projects or initiatives that could be deferred to a later time to create savings in the present, such as a facilities asset management plan.
Councillor Back recommended that the majority of the municipal office capacity plan be deferred, saving the township $30,000.
The Ward 5 Councillor was hoping to defer the entire plan, but was told by acting CAO Don Gordon that there are “some security related items in that package,” that he would not be comfortable deferring.
Councillors will be continuing to look for savings at upcoming budget deliberations as they wade through a long-term plan for the removal of invasive plant species from Lake Scugog, as well as developing a maintenance plan for sidewalks throughout the township.
However, one portion of the budget that could be due for an increase is wages for councillors.
“We are grossly behind other municipalities in the full spectrum of remuneration and it might be severance across the board to compensation or anything,” Mayor Tom Rowett said. “I have heard that one of the reasons people don’t run for council is that the remuneration is quite low so it is a valid topic to have a report back on.”
Ward 2 Councillor Janna Guido agreed with the idea of an increase, stating that most councillors are currently paid about $17,000 per year.
“It’s not like we are making $100,000 and asking for an increase on that,” she said. “There have been many times that I have had to ask for legal opinion at my own cost, and that $17,000 gets eaten away.”
Responding to the request, Mr. Gordon recommended that the township look at other examples to provide clarity on the subject for the next round of budget deliberations.
“The simplest thing would be to do a survey of municipalities that we think are comparable and bring that back to (council),” he said.
The next municipal budget deliberations will take place on Monday, Feb. 8. Following that, a budget open house is slated to be held at the Scugog Memorial Library on Wednesday, Feb. 17.
The final 2016 municipal budget is tentatively set to be approved by councillors at their meeting on Monday, March 21.