Despite several contentious items, when all debate was finished at the regular Council meeting on 31 January, Council approved the draft 2024 budget with no changes. Mayor Cleveland had one last try at reforms and he wanted to make drastic changes to the Community Grant Process but in the end, there were few changes to the budget. The budget increased by 9.91% but because of growth in the Town’s tax base of 1.85%, the increase in the levy is 8.06%. The issue of Stormwater fees was discussed but did not affect the budget; there was more discussion on Transition House as well as a few other items – stay tuned for reports on these. It was a marathon meeting and did not end until 11:16 pm.
Although Community Grants are only $37K or 0.1% of the $30.9M budget, the longest discussion was about them. Mayor Cleveland wanted to limit grants to “in-kind” and to streamline the process. His idea was to have MOU’s for organizations with repeated requests and approve them for several years at a time. Councillors seemed to be agreed that the process needed review and (contrary to logic – see note in Resources) that it would not affect the levy if grants were paid from the Northam reserve but, after saying that the review should be postponed, they voted to approve the Mayor’s motion as follows:
THAT Council only approve $30,000 in Community Grants funding without specific grant allocations to community organizations in the 2024 Operating Budget, and
FURTHER THAT Council direct Staff to bring forward a report to Council on individual memorandum of understandings (MOU) on long-term in-kind grant request recipients to eliminate the yearly grant requests from these groups to be brought back for Council approval; and
FURTHER THAT Council direct Staff to bring back each community grant application and supporting materials separately who are outside of the long-term in-kind grant recipients for an individual vote on funding approval by Council for each application.
See 6:22:22 on video. I think they were confused. It does not materially affect the budget but seems to mean no-one is yet approved for a Community Grant.
Reforms Proposed by Mayor
Mayor Cleveland made two proposals:
- When staff are added, they typically do not start January 1 so a budget for their actual start date does not indicate the cost for a full year – e.g. the following year. With the large number of new hires in 2024, Lucas wanted the budget to be increased by 1.36% to reflect the full year. That would mean that the 2025 budget increase would be correspondingly less. Only Councillor Barber supported Lucas in a recorded vote so the motion was defeated.
- The Stormwater fiasco has pointed to the fact that insufficient money was spent on that infrastructure item. Lucas wants the Town to follow the example of the County (although he did not explicitly say this) and add a 1% additional levy amount to provide for future expenses on Infrastructure. The approved Capital budget for 2024 is $11,024,488 – some of this comes from reserves but a lot is borrowed and must be paid back at some point. The proposed “infrastructure levy” would go towards this. Only Councillor Barber supported Lucas in a recorded vote so the motion was defeated.
Mayor Cleveland also asked for a change in the job title of the position resulting from a merge of two positions into one (Communications Coordinator PT and Council Administrator) – he wanted to remove the communications responsibility since hiring for the joint responsibility would be too difficult. His proposal was approved – there would be no budget impact.
One of the delegations (or was it “speakers”?) was Bryan Lambert who asked some leading questions on the budget such as “where did the Transit numbers come from?” – but he got no answers.
Also discussed at the meeting were Transition House and Stormwater fees but they will be the subject of future posts. Stay tuned.
Related Posts on Cobourg Blog
- Budget Summary by Adam Giddings – PDF
- Video of Council Meeting
- Correspondence to Town by Bryan Lambert – added 4 Feb 2024 – re Non recoverable HST and Transit budget
Note re Northam Reserve
Profits from Cobourg’s investment in Northam are placed into a reserve account. Withdrawals are made from time to time from that account to pay for various items. If those items were not paid for by Northam Reserve, they would be paid for by the Levy. Spelling it out: if Northam money is used for Grants, that money is not available for something else. So using Northam money does not make the levy any less.