By Don Crosby
The 2013 Saugeen Conservation budget has the support of all of the directors who attended last week’s board meeting.
“Staff have done a good job of sharpening their pencils, tightening the screws and seeing where money can be saved and where we can increase the budget minimally. They’ve done a good job of keeping that increase to the smallest amount possible,” said Kincardine Rep. Ron Corsitine following Thursday’s board meeting.
While the $3.3 million budget is down by 6.3 per cent over last year, it’s the 48 per cent of the budget that member municipalities pay for (general levy) that gets all of the attention.
The $1.5 million general levy is up by $34,427. An $80,000 surplus from 2012 will be applied to the spending estimates to help keep the general levy increase to 2.5 per cent.
Additional spending is due to salaries and benefits, an increase in stewardship programs and decreases in other budgeted revenues.
The increase in salaries and benefits was brought about partly by a return of Don Smith who was on loan as the project manager with the Drinking Water Source Protection committee for the past few years.
Southgate Coun. Glen Irwin says he has no difficulty recommending this draft budget to his council.
“I give staff a lot of credit for coming in with a realistic budget first time around and within what we’ve asked for. My support of it hinges on an aggressive review of programs. We said in the past we would do it and it didn’t happen, but I think the board is determined to do it. If it doesn’t happen I won’t be so agreeable next year,” he said.
Jim Hanna of Huron- Kinloss calls the proposed 2.5 per cent increase very reasonable. “I’m very pleased with what I’m seeing and I agree with the chairman’s comments that we are making improvements and getting progress and I’m very pleased to see that,” he said.
But Hanna sides with Irwin and other directors who want an in-depth scrutiny of each of the authority’s programmes, a process that chair Bill Scriven promises will begin in December. Hanna is also pushing for long term financial planning.
A lot of the drama surrounding the annual budget deliberations could be avoided with a long term vision and multiyear planning, Hanna said.
“I’m looking at five years; that’s a baseline that you would want to have and where you would want to be in five years and what is it going to take to get there. . . if you don’t have some vision of where you want to be at a time and place and start laying those numbers out (each year) then people don’t get a chance to get their minds around it. . . You don’t plan your finances of your home on an annual cycle you take a longer term approach,” Hanna said.
Scriven described the proposed budget as satisfying the request of its shareholders – the member municipalities – which for years have clamoured for cost cutting measures.
“Our discussions went very smoothly. It’s not argumentative. Everybody seems to be on the same track to make progress. We’re not sacrificing capital projects. Really we’re not sacrificing anything. It’s a 2.4 per cent increase,” said Scriven.
“I think it’s a good budget. I hope the municipalities like it.”