Grey County council is considering more than $5 million in across the board budget/service cuts to lower a possible double digit tax increase in 2024.
On Nov. 3, county council held a special virtual budget workshop to go over a list of potential cuts to the proposed budget for 2024. In the early days of the budget process, county taxpayers are facing a tax hike of more than 12 per cent, which represents in excess of $8.4 million in increased net (minus new revenue from growth) spending over 2023.
At the workshop, county staff presented a package of potential spending cuts that could lower the $8.4 million by more than five million dollars. The spending reductions were presented in four separate levels. The first was a series of cuts that staff had found after the initial budget presentation to council on Oct. 24. Council agreed to a total of $836,400 (1.2 per cent) in reductions proposed by staff. They included using reserves and one-time funding for some expenses, a reduction in amounts being transferred to reserve and the elimination of some new staff positions that were proposed in 2024.
After those cuts, the decisions became a lot tougher for members of council. Staff presented three groups of proposed cuts labelled Level 1, 2 and 3. The impact of the possible cuts on services levels provided to local residents escalated by level.
“This is a very difficult process. We’ve got a long way to go,” said Chatsworth Mayor Scott Mackey as council went through the list of potential cuts.
The list included:
The full list of potential cuts can be found online here.
The magnitude of the possible cutbacks were weighing heavily on the minds of councillors.
Warden Brian Milne said it “irritates” him to see the county level of government possibly cutting social services that were meant to be delivered by the provincial government.
“A lot of these are items the province should be looking after,” said Milne. “They were never intended to be funded by the property tax base.”
Owen Sound Deputy Mayor Scott Greig said they face harsh choices.
“This is going to be a very difficult process and it has to be,” he said.
The Blue Mountains Mayor Andrea Matrosovs expressed concerns about eliminating funding for affordable housing.
“I’m deeply worried about that,” she said.
During the course of the meeting, council also met in closed session to discuss labour relations and personal matters. No decisions about potential spending cuts were made at the meeting. Council will discuss the potential budget cuts at its next regular meeting on Thursday, Nov. 9.
Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca