Budget expected to pass Monday
The 2009 budget for the Municipality of Meaford is ready for approval. Meaford council sandwiched two special budget meetings around its regular planning council meeting on Monday evening (April 20) and came away with a majority consensus to move the 2009 budget forward for approval. In a 4-3 recorded vote council approved the 2009 proposed budget with a few changes that will have little affect on the bottom line for local ratepayers. Council began its final budget deliberations at 4:30 on Monday afternoon. Members of council and municipal staff hammered away at the numbers for more than an hour before breaking for dinner. A planning council meeting then convened at 7 p.m. About an hour later, with the planning meeting agenda completed, council again deliberated on its budget numbers. At both meetings Mayor Francis Richardson made it clear council wasn’t going to leave the room without a proposed budget that was acceptable to the majority of councillors. “I don’t want to come forward tonight with something that is defeated,” he said. “Hopefully this is the last go around,” said the Mayor. Council held the budget meetings on Monday to specifically go over the comments from the two sparsely attended public budget meetings held in at the arena and the Woodford Community Centre last Tuesday and Thursday nights. A proposed $2 a bag fee for garbage in the 2009 budget was the most heavily questioned item at the two public meetings. On Monday night council had to decide whether or not to make some changes based on the public’s comments. The budget discussions lasted a couple hours and featured a number of the same comments about bag tags heard at previous meetings. Staff told council that eliminating the $2 bag tag fee would push the overall tax increase up to approximately 7.37%. After hearing that number the idea to eliminate bag tags was dropped completely. However, council was concerned that the $2 bag tag fee would not realize the $370,000 revenue figured included in the budget. Municipal staff first proposed bag tags a number of months ago. The budget process has now dragged on and it’s unlikely the bag tags will bring in the anticipated revenue because they won’t be put in place until halfway through the year. On Monday night council decided to reduce the amount it expects to earn from the $2 bag tags from $370,000 to $200,000 – bag tags will be implemented beginning on July 1. In order to make up the $170,000 difference council approved delaying staff salary grid increases until November (municipal staff will still get a 2% overall wage increase). Council also approved the elimination of the proposed fees for the new Leaf and Yard waste facility. Residents will be able to bring their compost material to that facility for free. The changes approved by council at the meeting will result in an overall tax increase of 5.35%. A resolution to approve the budget, with the amendments presented by staff included, passed in a tight 4-3 vote. Councillors Gerald Shortt, Jim McPherson and Harley Greenfield voted against the budget. All three opposing councillors said the budget didn’t cut expenses enough, although they offered no concrete alternatives other than to call for unspecified cuts to municipal staffing levels. A formal budget bylaw will come before council for approval at council’s regular meeting on Monday, April 27 beginning at 7 p.m.