Council approves 2020 Northumberland County Budget

Cobourg, ON – February 14, 2020 –  County Council voted on Thursday to approve the Northumberland County 2020 Budget. This approval follows a robust eight-month planning and accounting cycle that concluded this week with two half-day special meetings of Council devoted to comprehensive review of consolidated financials. The full draft budget was first presented to Council in December by County Finance Director & Treasurer Glenn Dees, with all materials then made available online for public review. 

The $140.4 million 2020 Budget achieves a base levy increase below the three per cent initially targeted by Council, coming in at 2.61 per cent. The overall estimated impact of this levy increase to a median single family detached home in the county, valued at $267,000, is approximately $24.55. This estimate is subject to change based on tax policy and information from the Municipal Property Assessment Corporate (MPAC), both of which will be finalized this spring. 

“Through close collaboration, Council and staff were able to finalize a budget that ensures progress on our strategic priorities while respecting the ever-present pressures on our ratepayers,” states Warden Bob Sanderson. “The 2020 County Budget achieves a balance of prudent investments in local infrastructure, economic development initiatives, and health and social programing that will respond to local needs and deliver significant value to our community.”

Included in the 2020 Budget are initiatives such as paramedic service enhancements for rural areas of the County; breaking ground for construction of the new Golden Plough Lodge and Northumberland County Archives & Museum facility; completing construction of the Trent Hills Emergency Services Base, in collaboration with the Municipality of Trent Hills; and continuing with county-wide implementation of the Affordable Housing Strategy, including completion of a detailed design for the Elgin Park Redevelopment Project.

The County levy will fund approximately 50 per cent of the 2020 Budget. The County will generate the remaining 50 per cent of funds required through a combination of grants and subsidies from other levels of government, as well as revenue-generating activities such as property leasing, the sale of recycled materials from the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), and user fees.

Specific to user fees, Council voted to increase tipping fee rates at Community Recycling Centres (CRC) for the first time since 2013, with a rate of $130 per tonne – up from $115 – due to be implemented March 30, 2020. In order to reduce the impact of service costs to the levy, Council also made the decision to modify Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) operations at the Brighton and Bewdley CRCs so that each facility will accept HHW three days per week rather than six. This change will also take effect March 30.

In addition, the approved budget includes the implementation of the fee increase for garbage bag tags that was built into the long-term financial plan in 2014 following approval of the Long Term Waste Management Master Plan. Following extensive debate, Council approved the one dollar increase to $3.75 per bag tag effective March 1, 2020— the first fee increase for bag tags since 2007. This increase aligns with the recent roll-out of enhanced waste and recycling collection services—including two-stream recycling and organics collection—designed to achieve the long-term goal of 75% waste diversion from the local landfill.

“Council carefully reviewed financial plans and engaged in thorough deliberation in arriving at this decision,” states Warden Sanderson. “Ultimately, this planned increase to bag tag fees will ensure that we can continue to offer the services necessary to fully pursue our shared goal of 75% waste diversion in order to extend the lifespan of our landfill. As an off-set to household waste disposal costs, residents are encouraged to take full advantage of the recycling and green bin programs, which allow for unlimited set-out of eligible items each week.”  

Other highlights from the 2020 Budget include:

· Continuing to invest in resurfacing and renewal of existing roads and bridges, including surface treatment of over 120 km of municipal and County roadways, and rehabilitation and reconstruction of over 10 km of County roadway.

· Developing a Social Housing Master Plan to maximize management of existing stock, including identifying prospects for renewal and intensification, as well as exploring expansion opportunities.

· Developing a Community Wellbeing and Safety Plan in collaboration with community partners, as mandated by the province, to address local priorities related to crime and complex social issues.

· Fostering innovation through continued implementation of the Digital Strategy, including addressing local broadband challenges, modernizing the County’s internal IT infrastructure, and pursuing community-based digital literacy opportunities.

Final budget documents will be available on the County website by February 21, 2020  at: Northumberland.ca/Budget2020.