Muskoka Lakes Council approved the 2022 municipal budget despite concerns over increases from the previous year.
The budget which has total operating expenditures of $17,914,400 dollars, was first discussed by council in detail at the Tuesday Finance Committee meeting.
Councillor Peter Kelley highlighted the yearly increase in operating expenses. When disregarding allocated funds for inflation increased insurance prices Kelley found that the operating budget had still increased by 9.4% from the 2021 budget.
“I don’t understand why we’re spending 10% more year over year for essentially the same service and essentially the same equipment,” Kelley said.
While acknowledging that inflation will impact the operating budget he questions why the number isn’t closer to the 3% inflation estimate which is projected.
According to the Town, the effective annual tax increase will be 1.83%.Per $100,000 of property assessment that will trigger an increase of $2.25.
“We have to be prepared to justify why it’s costing us an increase year-over-year of three times what it’s costing everybody else,” Kelley said.
The total operating expenditures in the budget is $17,914,400 dollars, an increase of $574,142 dollars from last year and up $1,156,773 from the 2020 budget.
Director of Financial Services Mark Donaldson was on hand to handle several of Kelley’s complaints. He discussed that inflation rates are much higher than the national average in the area’s construction materials and labour and are not one-to-one with changes that have been seen in necessities like groceries. Donaldson also discussed one-time costs located within the budget including the 2022 election.
Kelley accepted Donaldson’s explanation but added that he would like greater clarity on the increases and improved ways at trying to manage them year to year.
Mayor Phil Harding made a comment against the wish from many in the public for budget increases to be in synch with the Consumer Price Index, which is currently 2.8%.
“CPI doesn’t take into account the cost of building roads or the cost of replacing bridges or community centers. And that is a significant amount of money. We know our public works is 35% or 40% of our overall capital budget.”
Harding also highlighted that the construction industry shows far larger yearly increases in costs than CPI. Harding also said he believed that the operating budget needed an increase in order for the township to fulfil its obligations.
“We are not delivering on our clients and our customer’s expectations to deal with items in a timely fashion,” Harding said.
Councillor Ruth-Ellen Nishikawa was the strongest voice in disagreement with the presented budget. She said she did not believe that the council had accomplished much in the prior year.
“We haven’t done anything this term of council like we haven’t built anything we haven’t added anything,” Nishikawa said.
Nishikawa concluded by stating that she did not feel that the budget was best for the taxpayers.
Several councillors highlighted the increase in staff and in staff salaries during 2021 as another reason the 2022 budget will be higher than the previous year.
The budget was approved by the finance committee on Tuesday but was brought before council again during the Wednesday Council meeting when it was officially passed with nine votes for and Nishikawa being the sole opposed.
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