By Chad Ingram
Haliburton County councillors got their first crack at the county’s 2021 budget during a Jan. 11 online meeting.
That meeting included a budget overview from chief administrative officer Mike Rutter and treasurer Elaine Taylor, as well as departmental budget overviews from each of the county’s department heads.
“Each year, staff try to present a draft budget that incorporates the direction we received in long-term planning documents,” Rutter said, adding this included such documents as documents as the county’s asset management plan, strategic plan, and climate change mitigation plan.
The draft budget contains a 3.86 per cent tax rate increase at the upper-tier level.
“We do know this is a very challenging year, and that may result in more changes than we’ve seen in the past,” Rutter said, adding staff realized a 3.86 per cent increase may be difficult for some at this time.
And while there is a decrease in funding from the federal and provincial governments, Rutter noted that modernization and COVID-19 recovery funding the county has received has been helpful and that without it, “this would be a very different looking budget.”
A number of items in the budget, the hiring of an intermediate planner on a two-year basis, for example, are budgeted to be paid for through this funding.
The draft budget includes an additional $50,000 for physician recruitment, $66,000 for the completion of a development charges study, and $88,000 for wages, benefits and resources associated with the creation of shoreline preservation bylaw officer position.
The county’s draft shoreline preservation remains under review, with councillors scheduled to discuss the bylaw again during a Jan. 13 meeting.
“There’s some discussion to be had … starting Wednesday, on shoreline preservation and thoughts councillors have there,” said Algonquin Highlands Deputy Mayor and County Warden Liz Danielsen, adding she thought council should wait until further discussion on the bylaw to make any decisions regarding that line item.
“There’s a number of things I’d like to ruminate on, and I’m sure others, as well,” said Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt, wondering what the plan was for further budget discussions, suggesting she’d like to see targeted discussions around particular parts of the budget.
Rutter said the budget would be included as a discussion item on county agendas until such time as council was comfortable passing it, which he said ideally would happen by March.
“We can do whatever you want us to do,” Rutter said, adding staff reports could be brought back with more information on any specific topics.