WN Council still deliberating on 2023 budget
West Nipissing Council has been undergoing budget deliberations since February 28, delving into the planned capital expenses for 2023 on March 8, with a third meeting to drill deeper on March 15. So far CAO Jay Barbeau, Manager of Corporate Services Alisa Craddock, department heads Shawn Remillard and Stephan Poulin have been presenting their case for a 6.65% general levy increase, projecting a shortfall of $1,240,000 to meet their requirements.
Reasons cited for the shortfall are that other levels of government are scrambling to balance their budgets in the post-COVID environment, inflation means higher costs, and past tax levels have not kept pace with expenses, they say. “Last year, for example, the general levy increase was 1%, which translates into an increase of .5 of 1% on the overall budget.” Barbeau had already warned the past council that it was a case of “pay now or pay later,” when they opted against higher rate hikes. Now, “later” has arrived.
Barbeau told council on February 28, “We have a pretty much brand new council that has a variety of different thoughts and initiatives and ideas (…) on where we should be going as a community.” New strategic plans and development come at a cost and won’t happen without investment, he cautioned.
The budget documents, he indicated, show what council has control over, and what they don’t, with many mandatory expenses and little discretionary spending. Departments submitted budgets based on the historic levels of service, current capital projects underway, necessary infrastructure maintenance and improvement, and new developments, he noted. “This is your key… an estimate of all of your expenditures and the monies that are required,” said Barbeau of this, his 23rd budget. Of the 2022 budget, he talked about the discord on council and the slowness of the process, “We pared it down …We offered a 2.4% budget increase and that was whittled down to one percent.”
A 1% General Levy increase represents $186,641. At 6.65% the General Levy increase is $1.24 million. The total budget is $32 million. Barbeau explained that the 6.65% increase is not an increase to the budget, it’s the increase in the tax revenue that’s necessary to balance the budget. “I’m just pointing that out at people thinking ‘Oh my God! You’re increasing your budgets and everything is rising by six and a half percent!’ No. That’s just the one aspect of where we can go to make up the shortfall after Council deliberates on their final expenditures.” There was a $751,585 surplus at the end of 2022, funds that will go back into the reserve.