/Cultural centre escapes budget knife 

Cultural centre escapes budget knife 

By Chad Ingram

Published Jan. 19 2017

It looks like the Minden Hills Cultural Centre – which includes the Agnes Jamieson Gallery Minden Hills Museum and Nature’s Place interpretive centre – will not face the kind of budget cuts in 2017 it did in 2016.

Last year council ordered that $50000 be cut from the centre’s budget dropping it from $340000 to $290000.

While at the time Reeve Brent Devolin said he’d like to see another $50000 reduction in the facility’s budget in 2017 the second draft of Minden Hills’ budget for the year shows that won’t be the case.

“As we all know the cultural centre took a big hit last year” said Councillor Jean Neville during a Jan. 12 budget meeting adding that further cuts would have repercussions on staffing and programming. “We don’t want to doom the cultural centre by chipping away at it.”

In the second draft of the township budget the budget for the cultural centre was approximately $310000.

“We’ve seen since the first round a bit of a creep here” Devolin said encouraging all department heads to continue to trim their budgets where they could.

Two years ago the museum’s former curator was laid off in a restructuring at the cultural centre. In late 2016 a curatorial assistant was hired.

On the whole the second round of the township’s draft budget represents a six per cent increase from the 2016 tax levy up to $7.4 million from the $6.9 million the township levied in taxation last year.

Of that six per cent increase 1.5 per cent is for the township’s increasing OPP bill which will rise by $104000 to a total of $1.95 million in 2017.

This year is the third year of a five-year phase-in of a new OPP billing formula that redistributes total OPP costs throughout the province on a per household basis. Since seasonal residences count as households cottage country communities are being hit hard by the formula with the collective OPP bill for Haliburton County’s four townships doubling from approximately $3 million to approximately $6 million during the five-year period.

OPP officers received a 2.65 per cent wage increase for 2015 and 1.95 per cent wage increase for 2016. Under an arbitrated wage settlement with the Ontario Provincial Police Association officers will receive a 1.9 per cent increase for 2017 and a 1.75 per cent increase for 2018.

Because those cost increases are out of municipal control Minden Hills council and the councils of Haliburton County’s other lower-tier townships typically opt to pass those costs directly to taxpayers.

The remaining 4.5 per levy increase is for the Minden Hills municipal portion.

The draft budget for the clerk’s department totals $540000; the chief building official’s department $240000; community services department (which includes the operation of the cultural centre and arena) $1.2 million; the fire department $470000; and property and environmental operations $700000.

The draft roads budget for 2017 is $3.4 million and during last week’s meeting councillors decided to proceed with three bridge projects totalling more than $500000 with funds slated to come from reserves.

Replacement and repair work will take place on both bridges on Ritchie Falls Road and the Soyers Lake Bridge all of which have been outfitted with tonnage restriction signage due to their condition.

Councillors will discuss further revisions to the 2017 draft budget at a subsequent meeting.