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Council makes cuts to operating budget ahead of open house

SCUGOG: Scugog councillors were able to shave off $6,500 in expenses from the 2020 draft municipal operating budget at a meeting on Monday, February 10th.

Coming into the meeting, the budget included a 4.92 percent tax increase. However, The Standard confirmed with treasurer Dianne Valentim the changes made by council at the meeting bring the increase down to 4.87 percent.

One of the costs removed from the budget was $3,000 for a monthly ‘Councillors Corner’ column, which was going to be a paid ad style column in the Port Perry newspapers.

“The Mayor’s Message is an opinion piece that is provided to the Mayor complimentary of space (by the papers), similar to Erin O’Toole, Lindsey Park,” Scugog communications officer Lori Bowers explained. “We do have some good relations with both papers, and we’ve had some good success there. The Councillors Corner would be an additional item. It would be monthly, and it is a paid ad, and we are lucky to have a discounted rate.”

However, the idea did not sit well with Ward 3 Councillor Angus Ross. “I wonder if the cost benefit of this is worth the $3,000. I personally don’t think so.”

Ward 4 Councillor Deborah Kiezebrink, shared she was the one who had the idea for it, but did not want this to cost the township. “The idea was not intended to be an increase in costs. It was intended to create more communication. I think we can come up with some other ways [of communicating to residents.]”

Ward 2 Councillor Janna Guido suggested councillors could individually do ward update videos on YouTube.

Councillor Ross made an amending motion to have the item removed from the budget which passed.

Councillors also found $3,500 in savings by going with a ‘inclusion bench’ at $2,000 rather than a painted crosswalk for $5,500.

There was also much talk at the meeting about potential additions to Scugog staff. The current budget includes new full time positions for an accounting analyst, parks attendant and public works operator.

“Hiring people is a big cost to the township,” expressed Councillor Ross.

Ward 1 Councillor Ian McDougall also struggled with adding new staff members. “I’m concerned with the staffing level increases.”

Councillor Kiezebrink explained part of council’s concern is the long term commitment involved in adding new staff members.

But, CAO Paul Allore stressed the cost of these positions are “covered significantly” by efficiencies found by Scugog staff, and the township regularly reviews all positions to see if they are still required.

However, Councillor Ross stated he feels this is the wrong use of efficiency funds. “Let’s pass [the funds] back to the taxpayer. You’re burdening the tax base enough as is.”

Regional Councillor Wilma Wotten said these new hires could help the township find more efficiencies.

Councillor McDougall stated there is just too much unknown future cost right now.

Ward 5 Councillor Lance Brown explained the township needs more staff as it grows. “It’s a need, it’s not a want. We are not going to get any smaller, we are going to get bigger.”

The Township will hold an operating budget open house, for residents to give their opinions, on Wednesday, February 19th from 6 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. in Scugog council chambers at 181 Perry Street, Port Perry. Officials from the Region of Durham will also be in attendance. The open house will also be live streamed on Scugog’s YouTube channel. Questions can be sent to Residents are encouraged to either attend the open house, or take part in the live stream, which begins at 6:30 p.m.

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