Headwinds to face future Milton Town Budgets

June 23, 2010 by
Filed under: Fiscal 

This Monday was the Budget Standing Committee’s 2011 Pre-Budget Public Consultation & Priority Discussion meeting.   Where both council members and the public are able to give input prior to staff preparing budget guidelines and estimates.

Attendance was sparse with many empty seats in the audience and a couple council members absent.   Being an election year, although the current council sets the guidelines and priorities it will be the new council which will ultimately vote and approve the 2011 budget.

We have a good financial base with advantageous revenue streams that some municipalities might envy.    But we have unique factors that will converge into financial headwinds that the next council will be faced with.

The upper governments stimulus package has helped Milton move ahead on several large  projects simultaneously.   But we are now faced with an impact to our operating budget once these facilities come online.   The Milton Centre for the Arts, our new  Library and the Milton Sports Centre Expansion will all be opening during the next council’s term of office.   The fruitful bounty of  money that let us move forward earlier than we normally would have will now adversely put pressure on our local tax-base to  operate these facilities.   User fees, naming rights and other revenue that might be generated by these facilities will only go so far.

Then there is the 800 lb gorilla in the room – Milton District Hospital.   Our hospital is not up to task to service Milton’s future population growth.   The expansion of the Milton Hospital is under analysis by town staff in consultation with Halton Health Care with a funding report expected on Monday June 28th.   But even if the stars align and optimism prevails there will be a large local portion that the Town of Milton will have to pony up the cash for.  Special tax levies,  taking on debt and increased property taxes all unappetizing options that might be heavily used, we  need to  start addressing this more proactively.

Then throw into the mix the other  “minor” (only in comparison) factors of…

* HST impact (Staff advise it’s likely a $200,000 cost to the town even though the province initially advised it would be ‘revenue neutral’ to municipalities)

* Town Staff are being challenged with managing the largest capital program expansions in our history with possible serious consequences to upper government funding streams if critical deadlines aren’t met.

* The continued rapid growth of our population and with it infrastructure to meet that growth.

So with this in mind the question that popped into my head this Monday night is where the heck is everybody?   There are 17 new candidates (not including incumbents) but less than half  actually showed up.

I didn’t have a prepared speech that night.   I wanted to listen to the presentation, hear some of councils possible budget priorities and see what members of the public might have to say.   But near the end when the committee chair started to go through the first and then second call looking for anyone out there who might want to speak,  I did get up and approach the podium.   I asked (through the Committee Chair) if it was possible in 2011 the subject of better access to budget and financial information by the public might be revisited.  Milton’s budget and financials are currently only available via static PDF while individuals who might want to do detailed analysis are going to want some excel spreadsheet, comma delimited CSV files or other industry standard format that they could then load onto their computer and access.   Most modern accounting systems will import and export financial data in a wide range of formats so it’s incredulous to believe this can’t be easily done.    The answer I got was a definite “maybe” and that “end user specifications” need to be further analyzed.

Comments

3 Comments on Headwinds to face future Milton Town Budgets

  1. Gary Ellis on Thu, 24th Jun 2010 1:24 pm
  2. Good one Rick! Shows a good understanding of the present situation and the challenges ahead.

    It is encouraging to see some candidates working hard to get a running start on Council activities, particularly the budget and related issues. We need dedicated and capable people to steer the ship, not more passengers.

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