GRAVENHURST – Local residents and ratepayers will get their first chance to comment on the town’s draft 2013 municipal budget this weekend.
Tomorrow (March 2) starting at 10 a.m. in council chambers at the town hall, a public open house will be hosted by town council and staff to go over the main points of the next financial year. Deputy Mayor Jeff Watson, who chairs the finance and budget committee, said he will give a short presentation on the highlights and budget process to date, as well as provide hand-out materials, charts and slides to taxpayers can get a good grasp. Watson added that this year council and staff took the extra step of creating a budgeting requirement forecast, right up until the year 2022.
“This year we’ve put together some long-term goals and projections to get a better handle on what our future needs are going to be,” Watson explained. “And we also want to make sure that we have a program in place to ensure we’re able to maintain and improve on our assets (like facilities or streets).”
Some of the major impacts on the budget include a reduction in the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund transfer payment to the municipality, the full-time fire chief salary and new volunteer fire department pay scale and an increase in utility costs after the first full year of the Centennial Centre in operation.
Some of the projects planned for the year ahead include fairly major improvements to Peninsula Road, work to the Narrows Bridge, a couple of culverts around Riley Lake, improvements to the volleyball courts at Gull Lake park and council will begin the process to have a new HVAC system installed at the Opera House. Although not a huge ticket item, costing a little more than $20,000 per year, council has included lifeguard services in the budget again for 2013 after debating its removal in deliberations last year.
Of course, everything is contingent on the public commentary and council’s final approval, due to be made March 19, he said, but as it stands the approximate total tax levy increase over 2012 will be about 1.4 per cent for Gravenhurst residents.
The open house will include an open mic, so people can “share their ideas, any concerns or wishes they may have so council can take it all into consideration,” Watson said.