BY ANDREW SMITH
NORTH PERTH – As municipalities prepare themselves for the 2014 budget discussions, North Perth council is taking a new approach in hopes of finding some extra savings.
Starting next Monday, Nov. 25, North Perth council will begin a budget vision session as part of the regular council meeting.
The 2014 budget chair Paul Horn said this is a new idea for North Perth and the way the budget is handled.
“This is the first time this council has had the opportunity to express ideas very candidly prior to the preparation of our budget,” Horn said. “We’ve never really done this before, so this is an experiment.”
Previously, the budget has been prepared by staff and presented to council, often resulting in a re-working of the budget figures after suggestions from council on ways to keep the increases to a minimum.
Horn said the budget vision session will allow every councilor to bring money-saving ideas forward before the budget is prepared by municipal staff.
“That way staff can investigate them and bring back options for council,” he said. “It may show some real savings in the budget for 2014.”
Horn said he hopes the budget vision session will alleviate some pressure from an otherwise challenging budget process.
“Our budgets are always lengthy and challenging, but this year will be a little bit extra challenging, I’m sure,” Horn said.
The 2014 budget was made even more challenging at Monday’s meeting of council, where fnance and corporate services manager Frances Hale outlined North Perth’s allocation for the Ontario Municipal Partnership Funding. Hale estimates the OMPF funding for 2014 will be decreased by $307,300 from last year, amounting to a 3.5 per cent increase in the municipal budget.
“That’s pretty scary, when they cut $300,000 from your OMPF funding,” Horn said. “We’ve got to look at the other side of things and see if we can find savings elsewhere.”
Horn said the budget vision session at the next council meeting will also include reports from the North Perth Police Services Board, Urban Stormwater Management for Listowel and surrounding area, and a review of property tax impacts for a variety of properties throughout municipality over the last 5-10 years.