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Kawartha Lakes council sees budget process presentation

DAN CEARNS, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, for The Standard

KAWARTHA LAKES: After passing their 2021 municipal capital budget in early December, the City of Kawartha Lakes continued its municipal budget process, on Tuesday, January 26th. At the special council meeting, Jennifer Stover, the City’s Director of Corporate Services, presented updates on: spending of the 2019 surplus funds, the impact of COVID-19 on the city’s financial situation and the 2021 budgets left to deliberate. In 2019, the municipality saw a surplus of around $3 million. Council voted in December to use the funds for pandemic recovery initiatives. Since then, $1.8 million of that funding has been allocated for the reconstruction of Colborne Street in Fenelon Falls, $115,000 is going towards the replacement and upgrading of boat launches, up to $100,000 is going to an arts, culture and heritage recovery fund, up to $120,000 is going towards a Community Pandemic Recovery Fund and $80,000 is going towards the 50/50 Community Program. This leaves about $800,000 available for other initiatives. A 2019 Kawartha Lakes press release explains what the 50/50 program is. “Launched in 2003, the 50/50 Community Project Capital Funding Initiative partners with community groups to enhance local parks, community centres, sports fields and more. In combination with local volunteer efforts, the 50/50 Community Project Capital Funding works to create a vibrant Kawartha Lakes,” the press release read. Ms. Stover then shifted, to talk about the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. “To date, we’ve received about $5.8 million in pandemic relief [from upper levels of government]. It’s important to note, [this] funding is anticipated to cover any pandemic related costs or any lost revenues the city has experienced, but it’s for both 2020 and 2021. So that funding needs to get us through this year as well. In 2020, the impact of the pandemic was in excess of $5 million,” she explained. Ms. Stover stated, pandemic losses could continue to add up if Ontario continues to remain in lockdown. “We would anticipate, if arenas and facilities continue to be closed until the end of March, we’re looking at probably another $1 million of lost revenue, just in the first quarter of this year,” she said. Speaking about the ongoing budget process, Ms. Stover said, when combined, the 2021 proposed capital, operating, special projects and water/wastewater budgets total $275.6 million. The proposed operating budget makes up the largest portion of that, totalling $210.7 million. Some of the proposed increases to that budget include: $2.1 million in salaries and benefits, $1.5 million more for waste management, $800,000 increase for Victoria Manor, $500,000 for winter control measures and $400,000 for the local health unit. Currently, the combined budget includes a total tax levy increase of 3.84 percent. However, councillors had the opportunity to begin talks on the remaining budgets, on Tuesday, February 2nd (past The Standard’s press deadline), and will deliberate the budget requests on Tuesday, February 16th, at 1 p.m. “We, as staff, certainly recognize 3.84 is a high number, relative to the conditions we are in right now, and we look forward to having the conversation with council on February 2nd and February 16th. We will certainly be bringing some options forward to council for their consideration to bring that tax levy down. We don’t believe 3.84 is a prudent number, given the [financial] climate,” Ms. Stover explained.

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