County council hears 2019 budget outline

By Cecilia Nasmith

Northumberland County treasurer Glenn Dees took the floor at county council this week to paint the broad strokes of the 2019 budget, a final version of which they will pass in January or February.

Dees's presentation included special issues included in this budget, and a perennial one is asset management. It is estimated $27.4-million is needed annually in addition to maintaining reserves to allow for timeliness and flexibility in meeting maintenance and replacement issues associated with safeguarding the county's various assets, from roads to corporate buildings. Another way to attack the issue, which will be discussed this year, is the possibility of county-wide development charges.

One piece of positive news is that the county is well below the annual repayment limit set by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to guide the borrowing practices of municipalities. It is set to remain well below the limit even in his 10-year projections.

Projections from this year's budget provide fort a 2.8% levy increase, which works out to a 2.5% base-levy increase and a 0.3% dedicated infrastructure levy. Dedicated infrastructure levies became an annual occurrence in 2016 to address an infrastructure gap. Estimates are that the 2019 levy will produce $56.5-million in revenues (making up about half the county budget) and $536,248 for the dedicated infrastructure levy.

The five largest budget allocations make up 84% of the budget – 27% for community and social services, 20% for transportation, 13% each for the Golden Plough Lodge and asset management, and 11% for the paramedics.

In terms of allocated dollars, the top three items account for 80% of the total – 43% for salaries-wages-benefits, 22% for social-service programs and expenses, and 15% for contracted services (such as waste-collection contractors, fire-dispatch services and some legal services).

The top four items in the capital budget account for 95% of the whole – 59% for roads, 14% for waste, 12% for facilities and 10% for the Golden Plough Lodge.

The estimated increase in the county portion of a Northumberland tax bill should be only $23,89 higher than last year - $1,181.44, rising from $1,157.55.

Budget documentation is now posted on the county website, Dees said, for a public-review and -consultation period prior to this approval. The version posted includes input from stakeholders following a survey whose results were reported to council and a June open house attended by senior staff members who offered discussions and answered questions.