By Chad Ingram
Haliburton County councillors passed themunicipality's 2016 budget during a Jan. 27 meeting and that budget includes a$10000 grant for the Haliburton Highlands Outdoors Association for theoperation of the Haliburton fish hatchery.
The budget totals approximately $21million approximately $14.3 million of which will be levied through taxation.
The county tax rate will increase by 3.85per cent for 2016 or from $177.85 to $184.68 for every $100000 of assessmenton residential properties and from $263.70 to $273.83 for every $100000 ofassessment on commercial properties.
Two per cent of the increase willcontribute $280000 to the municipality's reserves which are sitting at lessthan $4 million heading into 2016.
The Haliburton Highlands OutdoorsAssociation which operates the Haliburton fish hatchery had requested a$10000 grant to help with the operation of the facility which sparkeddiscussion at a Jan. 13 meeting of the county's finance and correspondencecommittee.
While the county stopped giving grants tooutside organizations in 2013 it has continued to provide funding for thehatchery under the auspices of the tourism department.
As a condition of a $10000 grant in 2015members of the HHOA were to work closely with the tourism department throughoutthe year to ensure there was communication regarding marketing activitieshowever tourism director Amanda Virtanen said this hadn't happened and thatthe department had to actively seek out information on events andprograms.
While Algonquin Highlands Reeve and CountyWarden Carol Moffatt implied the hatchery was getting special treatment withcontinued funding Dysart et al Reeve Murray Fearrey said the HHOA wasdifferent than other organizations because it has a physical asset that iscostly to maintain.
Fearrey also stressed the hatchery putsabout 30000 fish into county lakes each year.
Between the committee meeting and the Jan.27 council meeting there was a meeting with members of the HHOA and Virtanensaid the association acquiesced to the county's request it doing a better jobof reaching out and assisting with marketing activities.
The HHOA will receive $10000 for 2016. Themoney will come from $23000 the county had over-budgeted for benefits. Whilethe draft budget had included an approximately 10 per cent increase inpremiums based on an estimate from the county's benefits consultant benefitspremiums will increase by 4.4 per cent.
As always the roads department comprisesthe largest portion of the county budget at approximately $5.8 million.
EMS and health services has a budget of$3.1 million; social services and housing $1.1 million; the Haliburton CountyPublic Library $790000; administration $530000; tourism $405000; planning$330000; and IT just less than $300000.
More than $210000 is budgeted for theHaliburton County Rail Trail; $140000 for council; $135000 for buildings and$63000 for forestry/conservation.
The 2016 transfer to the Municipal PropertyAssessment Corporation totals nearly $1 million.
Some councillors including AlgonquinHighlands Deputy-reeve Liz Danielsen were not prepared to pass the budget lastweek wanting more discussion.
“There has been no opportunity for councilas a whole to really discuss the budget in depth” Danielsen said.
Danielsen who sits on the county's medicalprofessional recruitment committee has said while there is some money inreserves for the purpose the county will need to come up with more money forrecruitment activities as some doctors begin to leave to Haliburton HighlandsFamily Health Team.
“We need to make a long-term commitment”Danielsen said.
While Minden Hills Reeve Brent Devolinsupported passing the budget last week he said in the future changes neededto be made in the way the budget was brought forward. If councillors need tohave a discussion about physician recruitment funding for example they shouldbe doing that before being asked to approve the budget.
Devolin who pointed to the Lean Six Sigma cost-efficiency exercises undertakenin the City of Kawartha Lakes said there needs to be a larger philosophicaldiscussion about municipal finances.
Devolin pointed to mandated salary and benefitincreases for staff.
In the EMS department and health servicesdepartment where the budget increased from $2.8 to $3.1 million “85 per centof the increase is wages and benefits” he said. “This is a monster that'sgoing to consume us. This can't continue. I know structurally we need to givethis house top to bottom a serious look.”