By Chad Ingram
Minden Hills councillors began discussing the township’s 2021 budget during a Dec. 10 meeting.
Minden Hills’ budgeting process typically contains three or four rounds, using a sort of “wish list” framework where department heads initially put everything they’d ideally like to see on the table, councillors then whittling the list down. So while the increase in the first draft budget was 17.5 per cent over the 2020 levy, that figure is likely to come down substantially during the course of budget talks. Last year’s levy increase ended up at 5.3 per cent, equating to a 2.15 per cent property tax increase for residents.
“The management team is aware of the challenges and pressures the municipality will continue to face in 2021, so we are very much aware of the need for a fiscally responsible budget,” said chief administrative officer Trisha McKibbin. “We’re also very much aware of the surplus for 2020 and that this is the second year that the municipality has had a significant surplus.”
Minden Hills’ 2020 surplus is expected to exceed $1 million, and its surplus for 2019 was more than $900,000.
“Staff is very much aware that this is the first discussion and that this amount [17.5 per cent levy increase] is not an acceptable amount,” McKibbin said, “but this is the basis for our first discussion, and that we’ll move forward and reach our final budget targets.”
McKibbin said some priorities she hoped to see achieved with the 2021 budget included having no surplus for 2021; that only capital projects that could be realistically completed during the fiscal year be included in the budget; and to operationalize the township’s new arena.
The nearly $13-million project had initially been scheduled to be completed in late summer.
The draft budget contains an increase in the township’s wages and benefits for the year of $880,000, and part of that increase will be due to staffing requirements at the new arena. A report from McKibbin indicated that for the community services department, the draft budget contained an increase of some $655,000, and that more than half of that increase was comprised of wages and benefits for staff that will be required to operationalize the new facility.