Wawa Municipal Council are mulling over 2019's draft operating budget.
A few weeks after the Capital Budget was approved, the draft operating budget was presented to Council in a 2-hour special meeting early Thursday afternoon, the first of this term and for new CAO-Treasurer Maury O'Neill, who emphasized that staff focused on balancing community needs to be accountable to taxpayers, maintaining what we have in terms of service levels and infrastructure, while recognizing "revenues" heavily rely on residential property taxes, preparing for provincial government "downloading" of responsibilities and decreasing grant revenues.
Proposed is a 2.11 percent property tax increase, with O'Neill noting that an even 2 percent is roughly $99,000, while the total budget - including payments to school boards - totals over $13.98-million.
That includes a slight reduction in the amount budgeted for employee salaries and benefits - which make up about 28 percent of the overall budget - though the reduction comes from not filling some vacancies including leaves, a combination of one worker's duties, fewer Infrastructure student workers, and reduced hours for the Tourist Information Centre.
A 2 to 5 percent increase is expected for user fees, as well, while water rates would go up 4.5 percent, though Council was told that is a somewhat "generous" increase, as water services are supposed to be self-sufficient, with users to cover all related costs - something that would require substantial rate increases for multiple years to achieve.
Multi-year budgeting is planned for future years, with next year's capital planning to begin as early as this August to be presented to Council by the end of this year, while the draft operating budget would also be presented by the end of 2019, with plans for increased public engagement earlier in the process.
Council's set to discuss this year's budget again during the June 18th Policy Committee Meeting, with plans to bring it to a vote in a special meeting the following Tuesday, June 25th.
The draft operating budget, CAO report, and presentation can be accessed by the public: they're posted on the municipal website, through Civic Web.