Cobourg’s 2024 Draft Budget

Town Staff have now presented their draft budget to Council and it was in a different format to previous years. Instead of spreadsheets, each department used the same format highlighting key drivers, savings, large operating increases, special projects and capital requirements. But first, the new director of Finance, Adam Giddings provided a summary highlighting additional staff, main budget drivers, increases by department and the overall increase compared to inflation. Adam presented numbers to show that budget increases over the last 5 years have not kept pace with inflation. He also gave the total expected tax levy increase: 8.06% compared to 6.6% in 2023 – both numbers after accounting for growth. But this is what Town staff are asking for (recommending) – it has yet to be approved.

Adam provided details in several tables.

Budget Summary

Table 1 – Comparison to inflation

  Net Increase Average Inflation Over (Under) Funded
2019 1.60% 1.94% (0.34%)
2020 1.90% 0.73% 1.18%
2021 (0.20%) 3.43% (3.63%)
2022 2.90% 6.80% (3.90%)
2023 6.60% 4.12% 2.48%
Total     (4.21%)


Table 2 – Main Budget Drivers

Driver Impact on Budget
Wage Inflationary Increase 3.00%
Additional Staff 3.08%
Special Projects 1.05%
Additional Legal Fees 1.10%
Customer Service Initiative 0.91%
Other 0.77%
Total 9.91%

Table 3 – Allocation of Increase (Decrease)  
Increases in some departments have more overall effect than those from other departments.

Department Increase/ (Decrease) Weighting Allocation of
Budget Increase
General Government 15.88% 20.77% 3.30%
Protection – Other 19.48% 22.18% 4.32%
Public Works 2.99% 22.07% 0.66%
Social and Family (100%) 0.02% (0.02%)
Parks and Recreation 6.1% 21.22% 1.29%
Culture and Community 2.73% 8.24% 0.22%
Planning and Development 28.2% 2.71% 0.76%
Commercial and Economic Development 8.60% 2.78% 0.24%
Total   100% 10.78%

Assessment growth is projected to be 1.85% for the 2024 taxation year.

A major cost in the budget is compensation and benefits and this is best indicated by the number of employees.

Current Employees
140 Permanent Full Time; 43 permanent Part Time; 11 Casual/ Temporary/ Seasonal; 7 Council members; Total 201 (as of 1 December 2023).

Additional Employees
18 Positions currently Open (Full time and Part Time)
9 new full-time positions in draft budget – see day one and day two presentations in Resources for details.
4 new casual/ student /part time positions.

Cost of additions is $866,368 or 3.08%

Capital

Although each Department indicated their Capital requirements, the only summary by Adam was of the impact on the tax levy: $493,276 compared with the 2023 amount of $304,800. The total Capital in the 2024 draft budget is $10.4M. In addition to the tax levy amount, the full amount will be sourced by a mix of development charges, grants, reserves and debentures. Notably absent was any amount allocated to the harbour walls or the East Pier. $22M was included in the 2023 budget for this work but was not used – the total 2023 Capital budget was $32.5M.

Highlights

Here is my list of things we want to know.

  • As noted above, no capital is allocated to the harbour wall or the East Pier
  • The West Beach Boardwalk re-build should be completed by Spring 2024.
  • The Centennial Pool will stay open in 2024. For 2025 and later, $1.5M in renovation cost will be required.
  • Fees at the CCC will increase. Notably Seniors’ membership will increase from $30 per year to $58 and Prime Ice fees will increase 6%. (Download Day 2 presentation from Resources below for more details)
  • The Sandcastle Festival will not happen in 2024.
  • There will be no printed Leisure guide in 2024 (see guide for 2023 here)
  • There will be students hired as Tourism guides to support the Customer Service Strategy in Vic Hall (the lobby service desk)
  • There will be a one year Trial of a fixed route Transit service – in addition to the on-demand service. It will have 16 stops and take one hour. Note that the intent is for the Town to eventually own 5 mini-busses. The contract for Transit is up for renewal in 2024.

Summary

Note that all the above is subject to approval by Council. They will review the budget at the Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee meeting on January 9 and give final approval at the next regular Council meeting on 31 January.

Note that the growth estimate of 1.85% means that the levy (tax to residents) will increase by 8.06%. The County increase is 6.36%. The School Board increase has not yet been announced.

Meanwhile, the draft budget is scheduled to be released today (14 December) and “Community Engagement” will start on 15 December.

Resources

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Bryan
5 months ago

Missing from the 2024 budget:

List of reserve fund balances showing the following:
Jan 2023 opening balance,
2023 expenses and revenue per reserve fund,
Projected closing balance Dec 2023
Allocated 2024 expenses and revenue per reserve fund
Projected closing balance Dec 2024 for each reserve fund

SWM. Where is it?
In 2023 SWM (Ops & Cap) was included in the Public Works budget. This year…..gone.

Why is staff hiding this?
Are we supposed to forget about it?
Out of sight, out of mind?
The fiasco continues.

How much of the 2023 SWM fee was billed? collected?
How much was spent per the 2023 SWM cap budget?
What is the balance in the SWM reserve fund?
How much were the following billed for SWM?
Brookside,
OPP
LCBO
Northumberland County
Marina
Campground
Cops Crimcheck
CFDC
Northam
Cemetery
Churches
Private schools
Hospital
Golden Plough

None of these are exempt under the SWM by-law

Rational
Reply to  Bryan
5 months ago

Reading this post makes the Taxpayer realize the Mayor, Council and Finance Department (Budget Decision Makers) are taking advantage of those who actually pay the bills. The Decision Makers need to provide full disclosure – this smoke and mirrors approach is simply wrong.

If the Decision Makers don’t know the answers to the above at this point, then what have they been doing and how can they carry out required responsibilities?

There has to be a way to rein them in.

Bryan
Reply to  Rational
5 months ago

Rational,

The budget belongs to STAFF, not Council.

The CAO, CFO, finance dept, and directors are responsible for the content, disclosure and transparency (or lack thereof)

This does not absolve Council. They need to demand the missing information to help them make informed evidence based decisions and fulfill their oversight responsibility.
The problem is most (all) don’t know what’s missing. They just gratefully accept whatever smoke staff blows their way.

So much for informed oversight!

Effecting change is tough. Council has little ability to influence staff’s operations. All they can do is be the water-boy and carry the message.

Staff needs to hear LOUD and CLEAR from the residents that this BS is NOT ACCEPTABLE.

Enough is enough

Phone, write, email, crowd their offices until they listen and take action.

Demand answers and actions with dates and performance metrics. Use the Town’s complaint facility if you don’t get prompt attention.

Complain to the Ombudsman

Staff is counting on resident apathy.
Take action to make compliance with your needs staff’s preferred action rather than the consequences of ignoring you.

Bryan
Reply to  Bryan
5 months ago

SWM. Where is it?
In 2023 SWM (Ops & Cap) was included in the Public Works budget. This year…..gone.

The SWM 2024 OPS budget has been found (thanks Dennis N)
Budget pages 151-158 (PDF 97-101)
$1.7M+ to be billed to residents in 2024 for this fee (tax)
No information as to how much has been collected or how much was billed to the above properties.

Haven’t found the SWM Capital budget yet

Bryan
5 months ago

V13, another budget cycle and another $212K down the drain. That makes almost $1.5M over the past 6 years plus 2024. What does Cobourg have to show for it’s investment?
Nothing!
Squat!
No new business. No jobs
At least Port Hope was smart enough to say enough is enough and end their 6 year money pit (Idea Hub) which also produced no jobs and no new business.

Examine the V13 budget documents and presentation. You won’t find any of the following:
Deliverables
KPIs
Milestones or benchmarks
Success metrics

It’s past time to lake the lesson from Port Hope: CUT THE CORD.

Enough is enough!

Bryan
Reply to  Bryan
5 months ago

No edit again!!!! “It’s past time to lake the lesson” Should be take the lesson

Other budget woes:
The budget documents show a 2023 YTD column.
As of what date? Oct 31? Nov 30? Dec 10?

In prior years the actual YTD was the balances at Oct 31 or so. It was NEVER the actual total for the entire year. For budget purposes it is useless, but it looks good to those not familiar with financial/budget presentation.

Bryan
Reply to  John Draper
5 months ago

John,

Good to know. Thanks for the info

Sandpiper
5 months ago

Listening to the Local Radio Stn today 89.7 and heard the Port Hope Mayor saying the same thing They need more of our Tax Dollars to maintain the increase in demand for Services from all the New Residents they anticipate will move here . Nothing was presented in the Cost saving
area at all How ever Policing was again a Big Number $$ so if OPP is not the solution
Then why are these 2 Mayors not talking about Cost sharing and Savings , Merging services Like Policing Get rid of Staff duplications ,Equipment duplications etc etc

Better Yet why not stay SMALL Minimalism is trendy . The Provincial Grants and Funding are lessening or are in adequate Lets not follow someone else’s Drummer and Stay small .
Stop trying to grow at rates we can not afford or need . If we don’t build it they won’t come .
Northumberland is just fine the way it is .

cornbread
Reply to  Sandpiper
5 months ago

Port Hope Police have a new Station…Guess what’s next for Cobourg Police at some near point in time.

Sandpiper
Reply to  cornbread
5 months ago

I suggested that 3 wk s ago and that their hands will be in Our Pockets again when this Budget came out and I was Booed for it
But –It would ***** Not be necessary if they were to Merge ***** .

Tucker
Reply to  Sandpiper
5 months ago

What new residents are going to move to Cobourg when they see and hear what is happening with our once lovely inviting town. While making a “needed” trip downtown yesterday, I was shocked at how many people were “loitering” around the main street. There was an older man sitting on the sidewalk beside the bank with 3 little dogs under a blanket. I worry for the well being of the animals, not for the man, for he could take care of himself. Today on the way down William St. in my car, I passed another “older” man with a long beard walking on the sidewalk and he yelled at me “—- —“, for looking at him. That’s not the type of people that we need living in our town. Cobourg, was once “the” place to be, but not now. Get off your “duffs” and get rid of the squatters and druggies and make Cobourg the safe place it used to be.

Sandpiper
Reply to  Tucker
5 months ago

They will Come because Cobourg Council spends a Small Fortune of your Tax $$$
Promoting itself and our Beach for some reason beyond ration Calling it Tourism when we only have a small 3 month season if your lucky It also creates Tourism Jobs
again more Cut backs and savings could be had here Now the Sandcastle week end is gone in this Budget Its fine to eliminate the Sand Castel event as
I never see any one with children in swim suites on King st any way but lets eliminate the Department not just the event that does nothing.
Besides all our affordable Motels are full of Homeless.

Rational
5 months ago

IMO I see a Monopoly Game being played out in “real time” by the Mayor, Councillors, CPS, and the CAO (the “Players”). The objective of Monopoly is for the winner to bankrupt its opponent (the “Taxpayer”).

Cobourg’s Players are each trying to fulfill its own agenda/power grab by not working together and win the game, no matter what it takes. The loser in this real life game is the Taxpayer.

It doesn’t matter that the Town itself is being destroyed and that business’ revenue will slow. Personal agendas and winning take are what it is about in their minds.

High taxes reduces discretionary spending. What is being spent downtown will shift more towards Big Box stores/online offering greater purchasing power. Residents will have to move out as its’ become too difficult to balance household budgets given inflation, higher renewal mortgage rates, the SWF fiasco and now add the proposed tax increase.

What a mess! What poor Leadership!

Last edited 5 months ago by Rational
Carol
5 months ago

Personally I am having a hard time with the number of employees for a town of 20,000. Now we are starting to lose events for the town folk so we can hire even more employees. I am still wondering why our CAO and Clerk and Mayor found it necessary to travel to Sri Lanka and India. Even if it was free valuable time was lost when they could have been working here. Living here for 48 years I have never seen such a shamble. Now we are not even allowed to hear back from individual councillors the mayor responds to any correspondence and once we get the new customer service employee in place we are only going to hear from that person. Really? Sounds like a little kingdom building to me.

Dave
Reply to  Carol
5 months ago

I am awaiting an announcement of the number of grants Mayor Cleveland stated would be gained by the overseas trips. So far crickets, yet I note Peterborough is reported to be gaining grants for housing yet Cobourg to my knowledge has gained none through this trip.

Cathy
Reply to  Carol
5 months ago

Not to mention over $500k spent in THREE months for security and clean up for the encampment. Looking at the numbers, this is money we don’t have, nor is it sustainable. As well as multiple visits from police, fire and ambulance. Also, 310 division isn’t a solution, nor is it safe for the residents/businesses living in the immediate area. One business is leaving, and others may close up shop.The town and county must step up and say NO to other addicts coming from Toronto and other areas. A select few are killing this town, as a collective, we must stand up and say no more.

cornbread
5 months ago

Please note the “Protection” portion of the Budget. Big Increase/Heavy Weighting. Like I have been saying for umpteen years…Switch to OPP and a Volunteer Fire Dept. to get our Town Tax Rate back down. And New Positions…Someone talk to the CAO about streamlining.

Paul
Reply to  cornbread
5 months ago

I would like to see a proposal for the OPP as this is our big ticket item. Until lately all the police cars were in the lot behind the station at 4 in the morning. It was mentioned to the Mayor and all of a sudden the cars have moved. Previously the cars were at Stacks every morning and all of a sudden they stopped going there. We need to look at alternative. I think it is time the town gives us the number on the number of actual Firefighters and the tolls of the staff at the station, many of them must be working at home as you don’t see any cars in the lot. We have to ask why are we driving a $500,000 vehicle chase the paramedics for medical calls. As well the police are showing up at medical calls. Why? Because they can. Look at the number of uniformed police that we see and look at the total number of staff in police services. The OPP doesn’t have those direct vs indirect numbers.

Sandpiper
5 months ago

I would like to see this $1.5 Mil Proposed pool renovation and in detail
and what the Bids were . It must be indoors for this kind of Money .

Kathleen
5 months ago

What planet do these people live on? This HUGE increase may have been easier to swallow if we lived in a State of the Art City. But this is fast becoming Shanty Town Cobourg, decked out with fast food joints and pot shops and a ton of people happy to get down and dirty with the drugged out zombies. Has anybody seen how many houses are for sale here? Not that they can ever hope to sell now that City Staff want to bleed us dry even more. It’s all so depressing.

Rob
5 months ago

How about Council starts with “no.” No new positions. No filling vacant positions unless by exception and approved by the CAO. Any position that has been open for 6 months or longer is paused and requires a business case justification approved by Council. Headcount reductions ~5%. No money for special projects. No increases to any budget unless support by a thorough business analysis – saying pretty please isn’t enough. Compensation increases less than 3% and potentially deferred. Defer capital expenditures and pause where appropriate.

While I’m sure cancelling the Sandcastle Festival will save a bundle (sarcasm), they need to do much better. Unquenchable thirst for revenue…appalling

And Mr. Giddings please kindly hold back on the graphics and pictures on a serious budget presentation that is asking taxpayers for 10% more…

Jones
Reply to  Rob
5 months ago

Exactly,, if you want 6.6 percent increase while
Trying to reduce inflation to 2 percent you are
Part of the problem Not the solution

ben
5 months ago

Perhaps the communications dept could help me here – after the plan has not been explained very well.

A customer service booth will erected in the foyer of City Hall. One full time employee (CSR) will be hired to take customers’ complaints and questions and brickbats too. These items will be documented and tracked and then the CSR will pass the question/query/complaint to the correct person in the Corporation who can deal with it. After the problem raised is resolved the CSR will inform the applicant/complainant of the decision.

Presumably the CSR will have put this item into a ‘tickler’ system so that it can be chased up at any time and hopefully put on the Town’s website so that progress in the problem can be tracked by the complainant/applicant.

So instead of a Councillor. or member of the Public, passing on enquiries, in the normal way, we now have a paid employee doing it. The actual work of sorting out the problem will be done by the same people who always do it.

So the way I see it is that we still have the system sorting out complaints but the unpaid ‘informers’ – the public and the members of Council are being replaced by a paid person sitting in a ‘ticket booth’.

So, communications department, please explain the efficiency in this system. Also please tell me how the timelines in this system will work – are there regulations that mandate the problems will be resolved in “how many days”.

Just a few of the questions posed by the addition of this new position that the CAO and Mayor have deemed to be essential.

Note:
Please correct me if anything here is not correct, I can take it!

Last edited 5 months ago by ben
Ken Strauss
Reply to  ben
5 months ago

Ben, you asked for corrections:

Considerably more than just one additional hire will be required. We will need staffing on weekends and holidays since it was suggested that this person would assist tourists in addition to their other duties. We will need staffing outside of just 9-5. There are vacations and sick days that must be accommodated and… It is starting to sound like a whole new department that will require another Director!

Dave
Reply to  Ken Strauss
5 months ago

Still murky on the staffing of the service desk. It states above students will be hired to act as the tourist guides Ken, not clear as to whether the students will take over on the as the tourist portion and it had stated previously the information side for municipal inquiry as this will require a muncipally knowledgable person – to be staffed by a person garnered from within already in the employ of Town presently, previously stated. Therefore sick and vacation would not necessarily apply to the student staffing except as seasonal with vacation paid by per cent by cheque added to regular pay and sick minimal as it is paid to current seasonal often at an allowance of 2 days per for casual help. Best to address these questions to the link provided in a prior Blog.

Dave
Reply to  Dave
5 months ago

Unable to edit – therefore the information inquiry for municipal questions would only be available 9-5.

Bill Thompson
Reply to  Ken Strauss
5 months ago

With our homeless/drug addiction population, I wonder if “tourist” season will be affected and no longer be considered a major time frame during the summer months.

Sandpiper
Reply to  ben
5 months ago

Just another step in every process with No guarantied response times
I will bet this will be an excuse not to respond with relayed incomplete messaging getting lost
along the way