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Thursday, 30 November 2017 15:09

Kawartha Conservation Board approves circulation of 2018 budget

November 30, 2017 – Following a detailed five-hour review of the proposed 2018 operating budget on Wednesday, Kawartha Conservation’s Board of Directors approved the 2018 budget for circulation to member municipalities.

The Board began the day with a proposed budget requesting an additional $61,550 in 2018, a 4.2 per cent municipal operating levy increase to be shared on a proportionate basis by Brock Township, Township of Scugog, Region of Durham, Cavan Monaghan, Municipality of Trent Lakes and the City of Kawartha Lakes.

At the start of the discussions the total 2018 budget had been projected at $3,798,800; of that, $1,543,100 would come from municipal partners.

“Being able to share with our Board members a detailed breakdown of the work our staff do, as well as how each municipality benefits was an important exercise and affirmed the value of the services we provide,” explained Kawartha Conservation CAO Mark Majchrowski. “We applaud our Board members for being financially diligent and very much appreciate their desire to ensure community needs are met.”

Following a detailed presentation and break down of the budget request from staff, several motions were made by Board members to further reduce the proposed budget, resulting in the Board approving a 3.75 per cent municipal operating levy increase, or $55,550.

“There’s no question we are facing increased financial pressures and challenges due to new provincial legislation and other outside factors,” said Mr. Majchrowski. “In developing the 2018 budget, there were a number of financial pressures which factored into the increase, including new premium rates for WSIB and other changes through the Changing Workplaces provincial legislation.

“We are focused on continuing to review our operating model and to look at our revenue streams to help leverage municipal tax support, while also recognizing our infrastructure, programming and staffing challenges,” said Mr. Majchrowski.

“We recognize that our role is to balance human need and environmental capacity, by managing natural resource features that are essential for sustaining water quality and quantity, through watershed planning, stewardship, environmental monitoring and management of conservation and natural areas,” said Mr. Majchrowski. “In doing this work we are also consistent with each member municipality’s approved strategic plans, and we work hard to support those objectives through the work our staff do every day at Kawartha Conservation.”

“I commend the staff at Kawartha Conservation for bringing forward a detailed budget and presentation that highlights not only the important work the staff do across our entire watershed, but the fiscally responsible manner in which they do it,” said Board vice-chair Peter Raymond. “There was some spirited discussion and healthy debate, but I think what became very clear was how lean an operation Kawartha Conservation really is.”

Mr. Raymond noted that when discussing organizations with smaller budgets, only looking at percentages can be misleading.

“Starting the day at a 4 per cent budget levy increase sounds like a lot,” said Mr. Raymond. “We need to remember that for Kawartha Conservation one percent is equal to about $15,000. When you consider the legislated mandate to provide a wide variety of planning, regulation, enforcement, stewardship and conservation services to a watershed the size of ours, that isn’t a lot of money.”

Board Chair Ted Smith said the budget as amended, and approved, by the Board for circulation is a reflection of the economic realities facing Kawartha Conservation.

“Pressures caused by Bill 148 involving employment standards plus the need to remain competitive in the retention of qualified staff were the main reasons that the budget numbers ended up where they did,” said Mr. Smith. “I commend the CAO and his staff for all the time and effort that they put in to bring in a budget that was reasonable and palatable to the Board in these challenging times.”

The budget will now be circulated to member municipalities for a 30 day commenting period before the Kawartha Conservation Board of Directors votes on the final budget January 17.