The 2017 budget process has been very thorough and open. After 6 open Council meetings to review the 2017 budget in detail, Council is scheduled to approve it this week. The main points of it include:
• A budget increase of 1.43% which includes the County Simcoe portion of increase and no increase in the education tax rate. For an average home assessed at $404,000, this translates into a $48 property tax increase over 2016 levels or $4 per month. This compares to a 1.16% increase in 2016;
• The budget includes an additional 1% over the existing 1% (or a $98,853 increase) toward a Capital Infrastructure Reserve to go toward the Township infrastructure deficit;
• Certain programs and spending requirements were reviewed in detail and some of them Council agreed to have incorporated in the budget this year. Examples of these include more training, selected additional hires, funds for inspections, traffic calming and Canada 150 celebrations;
• Council reviewed the six-year Capital Plan and adjusted amounts and allocations within each of the years to better reflect the phasing in of capital expenditures over this period;
• Council reviewed and adjusted the 2017 Capital Budget and ensured specific items are identified and budgeted for in the next year;
• The OPP police services charge remained unchanged from its 2015 and 2016 levels;
• The full cost of the previous streetlight charge will be completely merged into the general tax rate and no longer shown separately on your tax bills;
• The water operating budget increase is $21.42 or $1.79 per month for residential households;
• The wastewater budget increase is $24.66 or $2.06 per month for residential households.
The budget was passed by Council on 25-1-17.
I believe this budget is prudent and fiscally responsible and that Council has conducted the best budget review process to date.
Waste Management Update
Simcoe County agenda this week contains much information in the attached staff reports on solid waste management updates. The agenda can be found at http://docs.simcoe.ca/ws_cos/groups/public/%40pub-cos-sta-com/documents/web_content/rsc504140.htm. These are good to review and I summarize some of the highlights below.
The third annual November 2016 curbside battery collection in Simcoe increased by 23% over those collected in the prior year (approximately 900,000 acceptable batteries or 22,000 kilograms). The collection bags were provided by the County to each household to allow collection of used batteries throughout the year for this annual pick up. The program had a net cost of $33,000 and will continue in 2017.
Simcoe’s curbside waste collection provider, Progressive Waste Solutions, experienced some difficulties in December collecting weekly waste, further to such problems last summer. This time, the problems were due primarily to adverse weather during that period and well as some staffing issues. County staff report CCW 17-036 (34-1-17) reviews this in detail. Steps were taken to catch up late or missed collections. Options are being reviewed ongoing to minimize and rectify this – it appears the issues are being pro-actively addressed as best possible given the situations at hand. If you encounter a problem, contact the County and they will take action.
Environmental Resource Recovery Centre (ERRC) update.
In November, applications were submitted by County to Springwater for Official Plan and Zoning By-law amendments for the proposed ERRC site. Numerous studies accompanied this, which can be seen at www.simcoe.ca/errc. These are summarized in report CCW 17-038 in the agenda and these reports will be provided to the appropriate ministries and agencies. The Organics Processing Facility (OPF) Request for Information (RFI) was issued in November, with a closing date of 13-1-17. The purpose of this is to gather information on alternatives for processing of the County’s source-separated organics, which will be used to prepare a preliminary business case that will examine the various options for organics processing available to the County at this time and be presented to County Council in spring 2017.
A Request for Proposal (RFP) for consulting services to determine the business and operational impact, risk, and cost/benefit of various organics management options, including development of a County-owned facility, was posted in November. Staff reviewed responses and Ernst & Young Orenda Corporate Finance Inc. (EY) was selected, as they scored best and have considerable related experience. Different questions from the public have been addressed in an updated “Get the Facts” document updated to January 2017 and worth reviewing at the web link above.
To date, approximately $220,000 and $475,000 has been spent on development of the Organics Processing Facility and the Materials Management Facility projects, respectively (to end of November 2016). Costs associated with the preliminary and final business case for the OPF, anticipated to be $232,196, have been previously budgeted.
The 2016 Solid Waste Management operating budget had a number of favourable revenue variances as a result of unforeseen circumstances. These total an estimated $1.6 million, including:
• Extra revenue of $520,000 of paper fibres over budget;
• Scrap metal commodity prices higher than budget by $160,000;
• Compensation as a result of collection service issues referred to above – $400,000;
• Residential tippng fee revenue higher than budget by $565,000.
Council will review this week whether to accept staff’s recommendation to transfer this $1.6 million to the Waste Management Contingency reserve for future Solid Waste Management projects.
Provincial Final Draft Strategy for a Waste Free Ontario. This revised draft legislation was released by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) in December, with final comment due by 30-1-17. Staff report CCW 17-037 includes considerations and comments which, once approved by County Council, will be submitted before the deadline. Overall waste diversion rate in Ontario has remained stagnant for the past 10 years at 25% (including residential, industrial, commercial, and institutional sources). Provincial strategy is moving toward a circular economy to minimize the use of raw materials and energy through a restorative system and away from the traditional make, use and dispose process. Diversion goals are 30% diversion by 2020, 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. The report outlines the 4 objectives and 15 actions to achieve Ontario’s vision and the County’s response to the final draft strategy. This will be further discussed at the County Council Waste Management workshop planned for 9-2-17.