December EMC Column

2013 Budget Since late August, staff members have worked on the 2013 budget for Carleton Place, and town Treasurer, Phil Hogan, presented the first draft to Council on October 9. The goal of both staff and Council is to find a balance among the competing issues that affect how our town is run and, ultimately, the bottom line of the budget.  Maintaining reasonable tax rates, continuing to provide quality levels of service, and protecting our infrastructure investments are the priorities we keep in mind as we work through the budget process. For some municipalities, Carleton Place included, the number one concern affecting our being able to meet those priorities is the Ontario provincial deficit. In order to attempt to balance their books, the provincial government has downloaded services to the municipalities who are deemed capable of being able to handle the extra costs.  In other words, well-run municipalities such as Carleton Place, are seemingly penalized as we bear a greater burden of the downloaded costs.  The province simply makes a cut and forces our community to deal with it.  For the 2013 budget, the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund download amounts to $166,600 or a 2.14% increase for our community. And this is only the first year of a four year plan with similar downloads expected in the next three years!  Add to this, the fact that after ten years of paying on the 2003 costing formula for our OPP services, we are switching to the 2012 formula, with an increase of 1.6% to the tax rate. These two costs, the additional OPP costs and the downloading, amount to a 3.74% increase that is out of the control of the staff or Council. For the past three weeks, we have carefully scrutinized the budget line by line, bearing in mind the priorities of our community, and have managed to maintain services and protect infrastructure, with a below-the-cost-of-living increase of 1.04%. As your Mayor, I have always supported holding tax increases to the cost of living.  This is one year that, although the town’s portion of increases were held through sharpening our pencils and examining spending in all areas, we are at the mercy of downloads and the new costing formula.  Passing the buck from the province to the municipalities means that for Carleton Place citizens the buck stops with them, since the money the province saves in one area and downloads in another is still coming out of the taxpayers’ wallets – this time a little too close to home.