The Township of Georgian Bay has managed to find over $ 150,000 for its 2021 budget to help avoid a tax levy bump of 3.48 per cent for the new year.
Council and staff spent over an hour during their meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 10, cutting costs from the second draft of the 2021 budget to make up for a $ 209,000 deficit, and finding $ 156,600 in savings.
That original deficit, according to treasurer Julie Bouthillette, would’ve meant a 3.48 per cent increase to the municipal tax levy. Council hasn’t decided on a tax levy increase yet and will review the second draft budget at its December meeting.
The COVID-19 pandemic produced a difficult fiscal year for the township: it generated $ 7.9 million in revenues but will need $ 10.9 million for expenses next year. It will also have fewer avenues to generate revenue in 2021, with many building permits and other projects on hold.
The biggest cut came from slashing half of the budget for funding council endeavours in 2021, from $ 100,000 to $ 50,000.
Coun. Steven Jarvis brought an additional item forward: removing the $ 4,600 allocated for council remuneration, which would have seen each member of council get an additional $ 500 next year.
“It’s more of a sign of solidarity than anything else,” Jarvis said of removing it. The council agreed to axe remuneration, but not before some councillors voiced their disagreement on the matter.
“I think a lot of us are way underpaid,” said Coun. Paul Wiancko, adding, “$ 500 doesn’t make much difference to me but … I think we need to get paid for what we do.”
Council made a dent in the $ 170,000 allocated funding for the community organization’s efforts.
Environmental charity Georgian Bay Forever delivered two presentations to the council on Tuesday, asking for $ 25,000 to fight phragmites on Quarry Island and $ 15,000 to clean up microplastics. Council didn’t touch the $ 25,000 budget for phragmites, and reduced funding for microplastic cleanup from a budgeted $ 25,000 to $ 5,000.
“I didn’t get a feeling the money for plastic would go a long way,” Wiancko said.
Council removed the local Summer Youth Program from the 2021 budget, saving $ 30,000. The township planned to ask the YMCA to take on the cost of running the camp, which had yet to be confirmed.
The camp didn’t run this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and councillors said they don’t expect it’ll run next summer.
“They’re talking about a vaccine for late 2021. I don’t see anybody out playing this year,” Coun. Brian Bochek said.
After removing or cutting funding from nine budget items, councillors found $ 156,600 in savings. They had come to the meeting aiming to cut $ 100,000.
“I think we made real headway, so I’m glad of that,” Mayor Peter Koetsier said. “We’ve given (Bouthillette) a lot to work with.”
They still have other items to address at the December meeting, including $ 30,000 allocated for developing a Community Improvement Plan (CIP) and $ 19,050 in a water monitoring fund at Honey Harbour.