By Stephanie Egelton The budget review process began for Perth South Council on January 24th. Council made brief comments about certain items in the draft budget and are anticipating more comments to come as the public provides input.
The first note to council was the unfortunate news that Perth South had been unsuccessful in receiving a grant from the provincial “Ontario 150” fund for Canada Day celebrations. Treasurer Rebecca Clothier noted that as a result, nothing was in the budget for Canada Day unless Council chose to add something.
Council renumeration was also a topic on the budget. Salaries are increasing due to a 1.47% cost of living adjustment; however, there were fewer meetings during the year. With the increase in salary due to cost of living and decreased meetings, it was explained that there would be no increase to the budget since more council meetings were originally budgeted for. As the council term is halfway through, election expenses were also discussed at the meeting. Clothier noted that “reserves were being built up for software and election needs”.
Fire Services and Policing was discussed, as all municipalities are experiencing increases. One of the three fire departments that serves Perth South has given final numbers for the cost of service. Perth East had given a 2% increase for service at the time of the meeting. Both St. Marys Fire Department (8%) and Biddulph-Blanshard (2%) have submitted estimated increases.
Mayor Bob Wilhelm asked the Treasurer if “we can look at the current fire services agreements to re-evaluate the costs” at a later date. These are expensive in my opinion, especially in St Marys where we pay per use,” explained Wilhelm.
Policing costs have been an expensive endeavour in rural municipalities, especially with Perth County. As reported earlier this month, St Marys abandoned the OPP as their policing provider, and instead contracted Stratford Police for a much lower cost. Although Perth South’s OPP costs for 2017 went down 0.17% ($2,887), the cost budgeted is still a staggering $549,888. Clothier explained that Perth South used to receive a rebate for services, however it has since “evaporated”.
Councillor Stuart Arkett asked the treasurer if the municipality can pick and choose which services the OPP can provide in Perth South. Clothier explained to Councillor Arkett that while municipalities can pick and choose, Perth South uses the basic service. She furthered informed council that an OPP delegation would be present at the February 7th meeting.
Discussions regarding increases to the costs of the St. Paul’s and Black Creek Water Systems were addressed by council. Councillor Melinda Zurbrigg noted that issues with wells should be addressed with the owners, and that they should be liable for paying for any issues (noting the increase of 8% between the two waters systems).
“Take a look at your wells and make sure they’re functioning,” said Zurbrigg. Councillor Bill Jeffrey echoed this, and noted that “If the ratepayer isn’t taking care of it then some measures have to happen.”
Council then moved to go into a closed session to discuss the upcoming capital projects that decisions would have to be made on, however these will be confirmed at later meetings in the budget process.
Perth South’s next regular council meetings will be held on February 7th at 9:30 AM and February 21st at 7:00 PM. Ratepayers of Perth South are invited to come to a public meeting to discuss budget implications with council and staff on February 24th at 7:00 PM.