City councillors to consider tax support for Sudbury's curling clubs

Budget deliberations expected to kick into high gear next week

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They did not get very far, but city councillors have begun deliberating the 2021 budget.

Four nights have been set aside to finalize the budget for this year. On the first night, councillors added two new business cases for consideration, including one on tax support for non-profit curling clubs in the city, brought forward by Ward 7 Coun. Mike Jakubo.

The motion sought support for four curling clubs, including those in Capreol, Coniston, Copper Cliff and Minnow Lake, which would see a grant issued “in the amount of 50 per cent of property taxes paid in 2021 and all years forward.” Only Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland opposed the motion.

Mayor Brian Bigger also brought forward a motion for a business case that would see one-time funding of $30,000 for the Sudbury Multicultural and Folk Arts Association. It was passed unanimously.

As several councillors have mentioned over the past few months, they have some difficult decisions to make as they finalize the 2021 budget. Council needs to close a $14 million gap, largely a result of lost revenue in leisure services, transit and parking, all due to COVID-19, as well as increased costs to the municipality.

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“This budget reflects the significant uncertainty resulting from the continued presence of the COVID-19 virus in our community,” city CAO Ed Archer said in an executive summary. “You see this in the form of lower revenue estimates for services that rely, in part, on user fees to support their operation, and in the ongoing need for extraordinary expenditures to help protect residents and staff from the virus.

“Council introduced a series of mitigation measures in 2020 that are expected to continue into 2021, and this budget anticipates some of these may be permanent.”

Council is looking at a maximum property tax increase of 3.9 per cent. On a house assessed at $350,000, that is about $15 more per month or $21 when you take into account the 1.5 per cent special capital levy (which brings the total increase to 5.4 per cent). Annually, that equates to $183 more, or $253 with the levy.

The city has a hefty annual operating budget of more than $600 million, as well as a capital budget of more than $100 million.

“The proposed 2021 operating budget is $630 million. This includes costs required for supporting municipal services and service partners,” Archer noted. “Noteworthy features of the operating budget include increased emphasis on road maintenance and renewal work; more resources to support winter control services; and additional financial support requirements for service partners.”

Nearly half of the capital budget is spent on roads.

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“The proposed 2021 capital budget is $134 million. Emphasis is on asset renewal, continuing the work required to advance the multi-year projects approved in prior periods and continued investments in technology solutions that will support significant service improvements,” Archer indicated. “Approximately $57 million of the 2021 capital budget is dedicated to roads and drainage projects. Other noteworthy features include continued investment in transit fleet renewal, equipment to support more road maintenance activities and progress on council’s large projects.”

As Archer indicated, service level adjustments are recommended to close the gap.

“User fee revenues are forecast to be significantly lower than normal levels due to the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he wrote. “To facilitate these cost increases and revenue reductions, other service adjustments needed to be made to adhere to the financial guidelines included in the 2021 budget directions.”

There are three meetings of the finance committee scheduled for next week, during which council will finalize the 2021 budget. They will pass or oppose 11 resolutions concerning the 2021 budget, as well as several business cases.

The first two resolutions focus on water/wastewater rates. First, council will vote on whether to approve a water/wastewater budget of $86.4 million, which represents a user rate increase of 4.8 per cent. Secondly, they will vote on a capital water/wastewater budget of about $45 million.

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Council will also vote on whether to approve the budgets of several external boards, including the Greater Sudbury Police Services for $71.6 million and Public Health Sudbury and Districts for nearly $7.3 million; as well as Conservation Sudbury for nearly $1.09 million; the Greater Sudbury Airport for $3.3 million; and the Greater Sudbury Public Library, which includes citizen service centres, for a little more than $9 million.

The eighth resolution on which council will vote recommends “the 2021 City of Greater Sudbury’s tax-supported base operating budget for municipal operations, inclusive of fees and charges and excluding the city’s share of the outside boards’ budgets, be approved in the gross expenditure amount of $460,653,610 and the net amount of $227,931,398.”

Council will also vote on the capital budget. The resolution recommends “that the City of Greater Sudbury’s 2021 tax-supported capital budget be approved in the gross amount of $88,912,216.”

With that in mind, councillors will vote on implementing for another year a 1.5 per cent special capital levy, which will be used to remediate the city’s aging infrastructure.

Resolution 11 is administrative in nature, and recommends that “this report serve as the method for communicating the exclusion of the following estimated expenses from the 2021 budget: a) amortization expense of $72.7 million; b) post-employment benefit expenses of $3.7 million; and c) solid waste landfill closure and post-closure expenses of $1.2 million.”

The finance committee meets three times next week: March 2 at 6 p.m.; and March 3-4 at 4 p.m. The public is invited to livestream all meetings at livestream.com/greatersudbury.

mkkeown@postmedia.com
Twitter: @marykkeown
705 674 5271 ext. 505235

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