Mayor Cleveland stirs Budget Pot

At the close of the first day of a two day budget session (Dec 12 and 13), Mayor Lucas Cleveland moved two motions that would be major changes to the budget setting process and to tax rates. Lucas is concerned with two things: first, when staff are added partway through the coming year, the budget impact is less than a full year so there is a hit in the following years that is not really considered. To fix this, Lucas wants the full year cost added to the budget and any unused amount transferred to a reserve to be used for future staffing needs. This was the subject of a motion he made which passed.  The second concern was more dramatic – more below.

Budget Process changes proposed by Mayor Cleveland:
Lucas wants three more things:

  1. That Council direct Staff to come back with (5) or more options on the reduction of services and/or positions and the impacts on the Town’s Budget and Service Delivery for 2024; specifically working to minimize the impact on new customer service initiative and the required positions for growth and
  2. Further that Staff present Council with a more realistic Budget in 2024 that would provide for the ability to hold the Tax Levy to a 2% to 3% + growth increase for the remainder of the budgets (2025 and 2026) in this Term of Council Term taking into account the non-unionized salary increases we have set in motion and the anticipated increase in reserve funding required and
  3. Further that Council introduce a 1% dedicated infrastructure Levy for this and future budgets that will be tied with the Town’s Asset Management Planning to reduce the shortfall in our reserves and infrastructure savings until such time when our Asset management funding gap is fully realized and a fulsome plan formulated.

The idea of reduced services is an ongoing idea from Lucas – if you want to reduce taxes, tell me which services you want to get rid of. Now he’s asking Staff to list the options. When asked for a comment, CAO Tracey Vaughan said that it was not appropriate to ask staff to suggest which services and their related staff should go.

In case paragraph 2 is not clear, Councillor Aaron Burchat said (paraphrased): “Does this mean that instead of an 8% budget increase, it would be (maybe) 15% in the first year so that subsequent years would be around 2 – 3% (plus a 1% levy)?” Lucas agreed that this was what he was saying.

The levy idea seems to be borrowed from the County who have done this for a few years.

Lucas seems to like the idea of “telling it like it is” – he said: “nitpicking increases is not the way to go” and “face the increase now”.

Lucas conceded that his motion might be premature since Council had not yet heard the day 2 presentations.

Also, the scheduled date of 14 December for public release of the budget would be hard to meet given the changes required. However, the current draft budget could be released with changes required included in a subsequent addendum.

In any event, Council was not ready to vote on his idea and deferred consideration and voting to the Council meeting on January 9 – this is the day when the budget is to get final Council review.

Stay tuned for a report on the Draft budget after the second day of presentations. (On Cobourg News Blog – where else?)

Resources

Print Article: 

 

54 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Eastender
4 months ago

Please contact the CAO direct, instead of this fine blog, and let the CAO know what you think of her ludicrous and ridiculous comments.

Leslie
5 months ago

The Mayor is asking to list options of what services to get rid of. Gobsmacked by CAO Tracey Vaughan’s response at the “inappropriateness” of this question.

A major responsibility listed for Cobourg’s CAO is: “Directing the general financial control of all departments and ensuring Council has the annual estimates of revenue and expenditures”.

The Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators (CAMA) provides a general guide for a Municipal CAO’s responsibilities:

GENERAL RESPONSIBILITIES:
7. Prepare annual budget; control expenditures, optimize various revenue sources and ensure cost effective operations are implemented and maximized.

RESPONSIBILTIES LINKED TO THE MUNICIPALITY’S STRATEGIC PLAN:
1. Cultivate economic prosperity – Build a strong foundation to support sustainable growth

Michael
Reply to  Leslie
5 months ago

It’s a bit of a problem when the CAO considers doing the job to be “inappropriate”. Some fairly obvious bureaucratic cost savings should be obvious……

ben
5 months ago

“CAO Tracey Vaughan said that it was not appropriate to ask staff to suggest which services and their related staff should go”

So we have the head honcho who has been hired to give advice to Council and basically run the joint who thinks that she should not be saying how to make efficiencies. Just what does the CAO do all day shuffle paper, lead meetings, and sign off on Staff Reports? A CAO should always be on the lookout for ways to improve the organisation that they run and cost cutting and efficiencies should be the top of the list. Perhaps when they hire the CAO’s Manager the CAO will be able to “think out of the box” when they have more time to do the job, after what will the Manager be doing to reduce the CAO’s workload?

Just my two cents worth

Last edited 5 months ago by ben
Pete M
Reply to  ben
5 months ago

Ben,
She will probably suggest that should be the responsibility of a consultant to come in and do thorough review to determine if there should be cuts, if any.
No one makes decisions at Toen Hall until a consultant does a study and puts forth their recommendations.
This ensures if anything goes wrong, blame can be leveled at the consultant.

Paul
Reply to  Pete M
5 months ago

Let’s face it the CAO has no ownership in Cobourg and is eating for another government position closer to home. Why was she make any waves. We that that happen with our director of parks. He came and left rather quickly.

Paul
Reply to  ben
5 months ago

We have a big big problem when the CAO suggest they cannot ask the management to suggest what services should be eliminated. They are the people that do the wokrk for the tax payer so I f this guy any appropriate then we are not going to control costs. Whoever hire the CAO was not qualified to put a job description together for the new hire. I think it might be appropriate to have a tax payer team go thru the job descriptions of managers and align their duties to include cost efficiencies that are directly attributable to employment. We have to ask. is there a review,
two to three times a year and what objectives do town staff work to each year??

Rob
Reply to  Paul
5 months ago

The Mayor assured the taxpayers KPI’s would be implemented and I assume shared – to date these are not referenced and likely haven’t been developed. Don’t let anyone from Victoria Hall fool you, these do not take months to develop. I’ve been doing this type of work for a long time, the lack of progress is due to a lack of motivation and accountability – nothing else.

Bryan
Reply to  Rob
5 months ago

Rob,

Totally agree.

I’ve also done KPI development work and believe a competent workable KPI set for Cobourg could be developed in less than two months.

The big challenge is not in the developing the KPIs, it is in getting staff buy in. To date, staff have shown little interest in having KPIs and performance reviews

Jones
5 months ago

Just fix the East pier

cornbread
Reply to  Jones
5 months ago

Just another Cobourg money pit…We can’t afford to fix it!

Jones
Reply to  cornbread
5 months ago

Then give it to the province

Rob
5 months ago

What Council needs to do is create the policy for all departments to return a budget reflecting a budgetary reduction of x% in 2024 or state all budget are 0% increases in 2024 over 2023. Of course this is uncomfortable for department directors and the CAO as it should be. Council can also implement a hiring freeze in 2024, contraction of staff in 2024 and/or compensation freeze. They can also direct that all Town expenditures over a certain amount be approved by the CAO (lower the current threshold in 2024) and they can end all discretionary spending in all departments. They can pause certain capital expenditures in 2024. Do all the things that regular businesses must do when under significant economic pressures…

Number 2 – should make everyone incredibly uncomfortable. In the subsequent years the budget increase will never go down…likely closer to FY1-15%, FY2 – 5%, FY3-5%, FY-5%. The need for more revenue is unquenchable and there will be reasons given for not meeting commitments. This should be a full stop, nonstarter.

Kevin
5 months ago

Government only seems to be able to go in one direction, get bigger. The bigger government gets the closer we move to a socialist society. When has that worked well? “CAO Tracey Vaughan said that it was not appropriate to ask staff to suggest which services and their related staff should go.” It might be the staff position would be eliminated and not somebody actually losing their job. Staff retire and can be reassigned. Part of management is looking at expenses and reducing them to provide the best value. What is wrong with asking a manager to manage?

Are_n
Reply to  Kevin
5 months ago

I’d be willing to bet that however the budget discussions resolve that Lucas will still be demanding his own personal communications person.

Sandpiper
Reply to  Kevin
5 months ago

I do believe we have a Lot of staff and less out put
We also have a lot of staff that are off work yet Paid
again the Police and Fire depts on PTSD and disability from injuries on the job
why are they not on Workmans Comp like every one else .
Comp . is very good at weeding out claimants , retraining and putting them back to work in more suitable carriers .

Kevin
Reply to  Sandpiper
5 months ago

Good point about retraining and being put back to work. Paying people to stay at home is not sustainable. Not everybody gets Workmans Comp. I know a guy who broke his ankle, not at work, and lost his job. Some people with good jobs and benefits seem to have no idea how much more they have than the ‘working poor’.

Bryan
Reply to  Sandpiper
5 months ago

Sandpiper,

The issue with the cops etc being off with PTSD is not Workers Comp, it’s the 12 month wait time to see a shrink to diagnose the PTSD. WC won’t look at a claim without the med diagnosis. So the cops are sitting at home (??) getting paid by the Town as are their replacements.
Double the cost, no extra productivity.

Leweez
Reply to  Bryan
5 months ago

Bryan, I’m sure the replacements are being paid time and a half or double time.
so possibly triple the cost and no extra productivity.

Frenchy
Reply to  Leweez
5 months ago

“I’m sure the replacements are being paid time and a half or double time.”

Leweez,
How do you know they (replacements) are being paid time and a half or double time, and what makes you so sure of it? What have you seen?

Leweez
Reply to  Frenchy
5 months ago

Well, the Police Services Board would not hire a new full time officer to cover another officer while he is off sick.
Therefore an existing officer would be paid overtime to cover that shift.
Look up their Collective Agreement, it’s all in there.

Kevin
Reply to  Leweez
5 months ago

If it is double or triple the cost I think we agree it is expensive. I really do not know what is so traumatic about being a police officer in Cobourg. If they have had adequate training what is so stressful? Any interaction I’ve had with a police office has not been stressful at all. The current immigration rate is higher than job creation, increasing unemployment. With our housing crisis this is not a time to increase property taxes making home ownership and rentals more expensive. Policing is a large part of the town budget and needs to be looked at. Don’t taxpayers deserve to know why police officers are paid to stay at home when we have to work to pay for out homes? Too much government taxation leads to illegal work and unreported income. If the town cannot get the costs for police under control why would we believe the town can get the spending for any service under control?

Rob
Reply to  Kevin
5 months ago

Could be related to the shooting in the emergency room at Northumberland Hills Hospital where two officers were forced to shoot an armed murderer after he killed his partner in her bed. I don’t know for certain, but I suspect this could be traumatic for even a seasoned officer and may result in PTSD or something similar. The last thing we want is an officer responding to a call who is suddenly triggered and responds poorly.

Kevin
Reply to  Rob
5 months ago

Yes, those 2 officers might have PTSD even though they are trained and the shooting the armed man was justified. How many officers are currently on PTSD or waiting to be diagnosed?

ben
Reply to  Sandpiper
5 months ago

why are they not on Workmans Comp like every one else”

Probably because your bud – Doug Ford refuses to make the WSIB a proper agency that compensates workers for their injuries instead of being one that just denies claims!

cornbread
Reply to  Kevin
5 months ago

Perhaps the problem is Tracey Vaughan.

Gerinator
Reply to  Kevin
5 months ago

Totally agree that there is nothing wrong with asking Staff Leadership to identify ‘efficiencies’. BullyFord takes revenue from the munis (i.e. development fees) and declares (without knowledge) that the munis should be able to make this loss of revenue through ‘efficiencies’, so why can’t the munis councils pass down that accountability? I also agree with comments related to the Mayor attempting to build a ‘contingency pot of money’: Rates of in year-taxation higher than what is needed to meet the immediate current year budget, in other words funding a unstated/undefined future resource spend. This is wrong headed in that it provides a pot of money that is very subject to leakage to support under-the-table projects.

Sandpiper
5 months ago

I don’t Like the Burchart suggestion of 15 % Now and less latter
Less Never Happens just an open door and it will be more latter
so is this really not just another way of Making us feel good about a big Hike Now ?

John Draper
Reply to  Sandpiper
5 months ago

It was NOT a suggestion by Burchat – he was rephrasing what he heard Cleveland was suggesting to get confirmation. It’s Cleveland’s suggestion.

Sandpiper
Reply to  John Draper
5 months ago

I don’t care —- The point is the Door is being opened to More Now by
SLY and the Family Stone

Carol
Reply to  John Draper
5 months ago

I think burchat was in shock and just trying to get his head around the idea. Am I missing something but are they holding these budget meetings with the deputy mayor out of town. Perhaps I am mistaken but her posts indicate she is away. How can this be what type of planning is this?

Kevin
Reply to  Carol
5 months ago

The deputy mayor has been responsible for budgets in the past but it is not necessarily so. Bryan, or somebody, who pointed this out in a response to a comment I made many months ago. I think quite a number of taxpayers are in shock at the mayor’s change of opinion and the CAO’s comments. At the town hall the mayor told us previous councils have done a great job of reducing waste so there is little left to reduce. If the CAO is refusing to do her job, as it seems from comments above by Leslie and Ben, she should be trained to do her job or fired. Reduce the frequency of sweeping the streets is one reduction that will save some money. Find out why so many police officers are off duty. This has to stop.

Paul
Reply to  Carol
5 months ago

She is away in South Africa. (small town) How can we be doing we doing budget deliberations with the D Mayor away? In that not the D Mayor’s job. When I was at work I wasn’t away for budget deliberations as that was my job. So I guess the Mayor has some explain in’ to do.

ben
Reply to  Sandpiper
5 months ago

15 % Now and less latter Less”

Well the County did and we are still stuck with 6-7% increases – will never happen. 

Dunkirk
5 months ago

Nobody can name a profession or occupation where the compensation & benefits grow by 4 to 8% every year for decades…
Yet our municipal government has succeeded in budget growth each and every year for 3 + decades with annual population growth of just 1%……
This year the result will be no different.

Keep stirring Mr. Mayor. The biggest line on the operating budget is wages and salaries.

Leweez
Reply to  Dunkirk
5 months ago

The biggest lines are policing and fire depts.
Quit avoiding the obvious and deal with it

Bill
Reply to  Leweez
5 months ago

Yes, turn policing over to the OPP. This will result in considerable savings for taxpayers.

ben
Reply to  Bill
5 months ago

Prove it!

Sandpiper
Reply to  ben
5 months ago

Its was proven in the Past just never acted upon
Afraid of Change and control

ben
Reply to  Sandpiper
5 months ago

Tell me where and when it was proven in Cobourg/ Northumberland? Another urban myth from Sandpiper the repeater of myths and mantras!

Rational
Reply to  ben
5 months ago

This most efficient means to determine if there are savings and how much is for the Mayor to show he cares and have a Request For Proposal (which will also compare services we can ask for) completed by the OPP.

These are figures from my previous post – CPS cost per household $765 and OPP cost per household $347 base on 297 Ontario municipalities.
These two websites are informative.

https://www.opp.ca/index.php?id=115&entryid=56b7d20e8f94ac9f5828d198

https://www.opp.ca/index.php?&lng=en&id=115&entryid=58179f628f94acf555bef561

By not calling for an RFP, in light of a significant tax increases, could be considered irresponsible/not carrying out elected responsibilities. Does it also suggests a lack of concern and disrespect towards Taxpayers?

Bill
Reply to  Rational
5 months ago

Thanks for posting this information. It saves me the trouble of having to respond to Ben. If we had opted for OPP enforcement, we probably would not need a tax increase this year, Wishful thinking!

ben
Reply to  Bill
5 months ago

I will say this again if you want a lower OPP cost for the Town you will never get the level of service that urban policing requires. Talk to the insiders and find out just how many OPP people are on duty on the weekend for the County coverage. Not many!

Kyle
Reply to  ben
5 months ago

Unfortunately I think the days of a greater levels of service with a small town municipal service are gone. The number of boots on the ground are diminishing in all Polices Services. But, with OPP you are paying extremely less. CPS is now unaffordable. That is the reality.

Rob
Reply to  Kyle
5 months ago

I’m curious, in small towns where the OPP are contracted for service, do they have foot patrols, beach patrols, community engagement activities, focused community/situational specific initiatives, school initiatives, etc… I sincerely don’t know the answer to this question so if others do I’d like to hear from them…these are important aspects of community policing, prevention and relationship building.

Last edited 5 months ago by Rob
Kyle
Reply to  Rob
5 months ago

Short answer….yes
if you google the minutes of Police Services Boards in municipalities that have OPP. You can see the OPP reports that include the services you are asking about.

You can check out an example of Hamilton Township’s
https://hamilton.civicweb.net/document/98620/PSB%20Report%20-October%202023%20-%20Hamilton.pdf?handle=42481410288D475A9107404D116465F9

cornbread
Reply to  Bill
5 months ago

Same goes re: Change to Volunteer Fire Dept.

Mrs. Anonymous
Reply to  cornbread
5 months ago

Rural fire departments struggle to recruit and retain volunteer fire departments.

With an aging population, people with longer commutes and therefore less available, an increase in the number of “difficult” calls (like the encampment, drug overdoses), what assurances can you give that Cobourg would have enough volunteers?

Leweez
Reply to  Mrs. Anonymous
5 months ago

shouldnt paramedics respond to medical calls, and leave the fire dept to fight fires?

Mrs. Anonymous
Reply to  Leweez
5 months ago

You would think so, but I’m not confident that’s how it works in practice. Maybe someone more familiar with 911 protocols will chime in.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Mrs. Anonymous
5 months ago

Mrs. Anonymous, the mind boggles at the concept that two dozen criminals at an illegal resort should influence how Cobourg’s 10,000 families choose to run their essential services. Surely that is not what you meant!

Mrs. Anonymous
Reply to  Ken Strauss
5 months ago

It was simply an example of something that may add to the complexity of calls, not the sole basis of reasoning. Thought that was obvious.

According to the new draft budget, fire calls were up substantially. I’m not confident you could run the fire department with volunteers only.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Mrs. Anonymous
5 months ago

There is no reason to respond to Brookside calls unless they threaten the house or other important structures.

Kyle
Reply to  cornbread
5 months ago

Just a FYI
there are NOT volunteer fire fighters….
.they are paid part time.