UXBRIDGE: Councillors will continue to deliberate over the township’s 2015 operating and capital budget in the coming weeks, and members of the public are encouraged to attend meetings, and be involved with the municipal budget process.
Budget meetings will continue through Jan. 29, with the next installments scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 14, from 4:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m., and on Thursday, Jan. 15, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Last week, budget deliberations began with an initial meeting centred around what Finance Committee Chair Pat Molloy has described to The Standard as “a status quo budget.”
“We have gone to staff and asked what it would take to run the township as it was in 2014, without reducing the levels of service,” explained Councillor Molloy.
Although much was made in other local media outlets of the budget process beginning with an increase of more than 11 per cent versus last year, Councillor Molloy assured The Standard that throughout the budget process, the increase will be whittled down.
“We start every year really high, some years we’ve started at 24 per cent, this year we are starting lower because we’ve told staff that we’re looking at some challenges,” added Councillor Molloy. “The increase is absolutely not going to be 11 per cent, we’ve already been able to find some savings to get that number down, and we’ll continue working on it throughout the month. We’re trying to stay close to the belt, but there are other influences out there like the cost of utilities and the township’s heating bills are rising no differently than household heating bills.”
One challenge highlighted by Councillor Molloy is a further reduction in payments to Uxbridge Township through the province’s Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF), which has seen local payments shrink by approximately $500,000 since 2012.
“This year, the township lost another $185,000 in OMPF money, and we’re currently at just over $700,000, and in 2012, we were getting $1.2 million,” Councillor Molloy said.
Local councillors expect the trend to continue, with the province altering the way it doles out money to municipalities, moving to a more specific approach to the distribution of funds to municipalities.
“That $700,000 will eventually probably be gone. But, as the province cuts, it does give some money, but it is getting very strict as to what it can be spent on,” Councillor Molloy added.
As well, Councillor Molloy reiterated council’s wishes to maintain the level of services currently enjoyed by residents of the municipality.
“Crafting a responsible budget isn’t just cut, cut, cut,” Councillor Molloy told The Standard. “We are fortunate enough to live in a place where we’ve spent years developing facilities that we can all be proud of and building a level of service that our residents have come to expect. And I don’t think that we should be cutting into that level of service that our residents have come to rely on, to me that’s being responsible.”
Later in the month, budget meetings are slated for: Tuesday, Jan. 20, from 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Thursday, Jan. 22, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday, Jan. 23, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.; Wednesday, Jan. 28, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.; and Thursday, Jan. 29, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The 2015 municipal budget is expected to receive final approval from councillors in early February.