Rising payroll costs are bedeviling Lanark Highlands hopes of keeping the draft 2013 budget to a two per cent tax hike.
“I have assumed in this draft (budget) that there would be a tax increase of two per cent,” said Robert Bunker, the township’s treasurer during a special committee-of-the-whole meeting at Lanark Highlands Township council on Monday, Nov. 19. “A lot of the pressure on expenses is with salaries and benefits. There’s been a bit of pressure there. Employee benefits have gone up quite a bit, not because of anything council has done.”
The draft budget sets an “estimated negotiated payroll adjustments” of $96,325, and as much as 95 per cent of the finance department budget, for example, is tied up with salaries.
“I think we should bring it back for discussion,” said chairman Coun. Bob Mingie. “We should bring the contract back and have a look at it and see what is says and doesn’t say.”
“We have to honour our contracts,” said CAO Ross Trimble.
Further to this, he explained that even with major infrastructure projects like the French Line bridge still needing to be seen to, “there are really no road reserves left. We used most of it up.”
While this was only the first of several budget meetings to be held at the township offices every Monday at 1:30 p.m., Mingie said “How sharp do our knives need to be to get there?” to the two per cent hike.
Bunker confirmed that the new MPAC assessments have been factored in to the budget documents to account for the increase in property values.
The council went through the draft budget line by line and even picked up on Coun. Derek Love’s $92 long-distance telephone bill.
“Every time I call here it’s long distance,” Love said. “Every time I want to call anyone it’s long distance,” he said, explaining that he has a 256 number.
“It’s long distance for me too,” said Mingie.
In a lighter moment, when the councilors arrived at the CAO’s budget, Mingie joked that “here’s one we can slash and burn!”
On Monday, Nov. 26, the entire meeting will be devoted to the fire department budget. On later days, the recreation and other departments, like the library, will plead their cases.
One area in which there has been a budget change has been in grass cutting.
“This was the first year that we cut our own grass,” said Trimble. “For all intents and purposes, it worked pretty well.”
“I heard nothing but positive feed back for the grass cutting in my area,” said Deputy Mayor Brian Stewart.
Payroll or “renumeration,” costs have been going up at Lanark Highlands. For example, here are some samples from various departments comparing the 2012 budget allotment with the 2013 draft budget:
- Members of council renumeration (total): 2012, $89,188, 2013, $97,279.
- CAO/clerk office: 2012, $86,995, 2013, $103,718
- Deputy clerk’s office: 2012, $36,317, 2013, $60,333
- Finance department: 2012, $90,293, 2013, $99,550
- Fire chief: 2012, $81,824, 2013, $86,141
- Fire administrative assistant: 2012, $37,284, 2013, $52,834
- CBO office: 2012, $64,242, 2013, $70,619