BY ANDREW SMITH
LISTOWEL – North Perth council has all but approved their 2013 budget, coming in at a 4.9 per cent levy increase.
Council discussed final revisions to the budget at their meeting on March 20, starting with a presentation from Toronto-based company ADP on a new municipal payroll system. The new payroll system was described as being more efficient, and expected to save $30,000 a year for North Perth with an annual cost of $13,000-15,000. However, Mayor Julie Behrns questioned relying on a single-source solution when there may be other options available.
“I think we have to be conscious and aware there are many solutions to our situation out there,” she said. “I think it’s important to explore all of the information before you make a decision such as out-sourcing payroll.”
A suggestion from treasurer Frances Hale to go to tender on the project was complicated due to the fact that the offer from ADP was made public and available to competing companies. Council decided to proceed with investigating more suppliers and consider the matter at a later meeting.
Following minor revisions to the budget for fire department radios, general sporting equipment and beatification committee, North Perth council was left with a budget in the area of 4.9 per cent. Budget chair Warren Howard said although there was little trimming of the municipal budget, that had been accomplished by staff earlier, and the large increases remain out of council’s control.
“There actually was a lot of cutting before it was ever produced,” he said. “What’s really driving the numbers is the reduction in provincial grants and the continued increases in police costs.”
While Howard said he hasn’t been keeping track of neighbouring municipalities through their budget discussions, he feels North Perth’s budget is in line with those he has seen, or better.
“The ones I have seen are kind of all over the map,” Howard said. “I think we’re doing better than some of the other communities.”
Behrns said she’s satisfied with the attention members of council have devoted to budget discussions, and have shown responsibility in passing budget items thus far.
“I believe councillors have done their due diligence in going over the budget,” Behrns said. “I know that councillors in this term have become very educated on real costs of what the municipality pays for certain services.”
Behrns also reminded ratepayers there is a cost to many of the services provided by the municipality, and costs to the municipality are increasing.
“I think it’s important just for the general public to know what’s involved in the service we provide and the costs that are associated with it,” she said. “Sometimes the public doesn’t see some of those costs.”