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Hub Staff

The need to meet growth expectations was the theme during the Saugeen Shores Operating Budget meeting January 8 that saw the new council approve in principle five new staff positions. Town CAO David Smith said that although the operations budget doesn't have much “sizzle” it will help day-to-day operations while focusing on future goals.

Following a day of deliberation the councillors ended on a 3 percent blended tax increase which, per $310,000 average home, would amount to $102.60.

“I think a 3 percent blended tax increase is where we hoped to wind up," said Saugeen Shores Mayor Luke Charbonneau following the draft budget meeting. “It’s certainly been a target that existed around this table for a number of years so I’m pleased to see that our initial crack at the overall budget is in and around 3 percent.”

New potential staff include an economic development officer and a payroll human resources clerk; the hiring of an additional police officer would allow a sergeant to be in charge of the criminal investigations and drugs division; another crossing guard for Northport Elementary School and an additional snow plow operator to be hired pending the capital budget approval of a new snow plow; a part time community services position will be made into a full time position.

As well, new positions that were created in 2018, including a full time building inspector and full time bylaw officer, were reflected in the 2019 budget.

Mayor Charbonneau would like to have Saugeen Shores tipping fees reviewed and requested that the landfill operate on Mondays throughout the year. Currently the landfill is closed Mondays between November 1 and March 31. If the new hours are approved, the landfill would be open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

In hopes of curbing illegal dumping, Charbonneau also suggested increasing the cost of bag tags in Saugeen Shores but allowing the first garbage bag to be set curb-side for free. This approach will be looked at later in the year.

Town staff highlighted the increase to some councillor's wages following a report by Ward & Uptigrove in late 2018. The funds have been moved from the Accessibility Committee and Municipal Heritage which will be re-established later this quarter.

The operation budget also highlighted additional staff salary and benefit increases, 2.75 percent for non-union and a negotiated increase of 2.75 percent through the International Union of Operating Engineers per their collective agreement.

An annual contribution of $15,000 to the Election reserve was approved with Town Clerk Linda White informing councillors that due to the issues with the new electronic voting system used during the recent municipal election, the Town would be receiving a discount in fees from Dominion Voting Services.

An 3 percent increase in revenue for the Port Elgin Harbour reduced its operating budget for 2019. Registrations from day camps and recreational programs saw the Recreation and Culture budget decrease by more than half. Highlights include a 250 person enrolment in ball hockey during the shoulder season.

The net rental income at the Plex in 2018 was $289,963, up from 2017's $253,900. A partial levy of $30 per property will be implemented in 2019 to assist with principle and interest charges for the $6.8 million new police headquarters project.

The 2018 budget was set at an overall blended tax increase of 3 percent, allowing for a contribution to the Legacy Fund of $746,000. Following the same methodology of a blended tax rate of approximately 3 percent, Saugeen Shores Council approved an additional $500,000 to be transferred to the Legacy Fund in 2019. Town staff noted this annual transfer will help achieve the Corporate Strategic Plan goal of maintaining facilities and infrastructure.

The operations budget will be looked at again by Council before final approval. The Capital Budget meeting is set for January 22.

Editor's note: The original version of this article stated the Capital Budget meeting would be held on the 28th when in fact it is the 22nd. The information had been corrected above.