Budget season for next year is about to begin. Our budget is a central document that determines what services the Township thinks are needed and who pays. Municipalities are limited in both respects; property taxes are our main option to raise money and there are many mandated services we must provide. Nonetheless, there is significant ability to budget for what we think will make a better community.
Budgets become better when politicians and staff hear from the residents on what the community’s priorities should be. Council is setting aside two times within the budget making process for formal community input.
There will be a pubic engagement survey on budget priorities in October with delegations to Council on November 16: the beginning of the budget preparation. Please use these opportunities to say what your 2022 budget priorities are.
The second input session will be in early January 2022 after a detailed full draft budget has been prepared. This is the hard work of budgets: where the “rubber hits the road”. It will help to know what you think of the proposed spending and taxation for next year. Many sets of eyes need to go over the details to give us the best possible outcome.
Last year, Council agreed to make gravels roads part of the Township’s asset management plan: something that should have been done a long time ago. Being part of the asset management system means that gravel roads, like all other roads and facilities, will have long-term financing for their maintenance and improvement.
Council has now taken the next step. We agreed to use provincial modernization funding for a gravel-roads needs study. The goal is a better system to evaluate our gravel roads and a comprehensive current evaluation of all roads. The information obtained will help identify critical deficiencies, recommend improvements and establish a short- and long-term capital plan for improvements.
The proposed evaluation criteria included the tax base along the road. This criterion would have meant that roads with more valuable properties would receive a higher priority. Council unanimously supported my motion to remove tax base as a criterion. Council also voted to include, if it is possible to determine, the mix of seasonal and full-time residents, as one of the considerations.
If all goes well the gravel roads needs study should be done in the spring of 2022.
Unused COVID Assistance
In the 2021 budget Council allocated $250,000 to help community organizations, businesses and individuals who had been hurt by the pandemic. On September 21 approximately $100,000 was unspent and returned to our reserves.
Two application periods resulted in 14 community groups receiving approximately $85,000 in grants. A further $57,500 was distrusted through Frontenac Business Services to support 31 small business and 98 jobs in the community. And, $5,000 was used to buy equipment needed to expand the Meals on Wheels program to meet the needs of the increased number of seniors staying at home.
Southern Frontenac Community Services (SFCS) Building Assistance
SFCS is a local agency providing a wide range of community health related services. If you are not familiar with the programs, please visit their website. https://www.sfcsc.ca/. Their home base is on Stagecoach Road and it includes the Grace Center, a beautifully repurposed United Church.
SFCS has reached a crisis point. To provide an expanded number of services, they now operate out of three portables and are crowded in the more formal space.
They need more space to move the food bank and key administrative services out of the portables. The renovations will also provide confidential meeting space, accessible washrooms, improved efficiencies and expanded capacity in food handling and preparation for Meals on Wheels and a variety of other improvements to meet the needs of the 8,000, and growing number of seniors who live in our area.
The Township has been asked to provide $750,000, about half the cost of the addition. Township staff are preparing a report for Council on the benefits and risk of investing in the building and to outline proposals on how we could do it. This report will be coming to the Committee of the Whole on October 12.
Municipalities have a legal mandate and moral obligation to provide community support services: they make for stronger, healthier communities. SFCS does much of this work for us.
One concern is that the province is currently reorganizing community support services. If the Council makes a sizable donation to the building fund, which it should, it is important that the investment is used to provide local services under local control and that there is some mechanism to make this happen.