Where your St. Thomas tax dollars are destined in 2019 (a lot are going to wages and benefits)

 city_scope_logo-cmykDirector of Finance David Aristone has made public the 2019 proposed operating and capital budgets, with city council due to begin deliberations 5 p.m. Monday (Jan. 7).
As outlined in the budget document, this year’s property tax levy is $52.3 million, an increase over last year of 1.8 per cent.
The capital budget target for 2019 is $4,045,000, up from $3.4 million in 2018. Proposed capital projects involve $23.5 million in expenditures.
Some of the key projects flagged for approval include the reconstruction of Elm Street, from Sunset Road to First Avenue at a cost of $8.8 million, none of which will come from the tax levy, but instead from development charges, reserves and water/sanitary/stormwater charges.
Same story for the complete streets program, budgeted for $7 million.

Other roadwork projects will see culvert work on Churchill Crescent, a roundabout at Highview Avenue East and Wellington, and improvements on William Street between Talbot and Centre streets.
A total of $400,000 has been allotted for much-needed renovations to the animal shelter.
Projects at this point which haven’t been designated for approval include runway improvements at St. Thomas Municipal Airport, a park and parking lot at the Jumbo monument, pavilion work at Pinafore Park, a ball hockey rink outside the Joe Thornton Community Centre and road resurfacing at the Horton Market.
Aristone cautions in his report, “The City continues to have an infrastructure deficit that must be addressed.”
On the operating side, Aristone tables a number of financial pressures to be aware of this year.
The addition of an eighth councillor will come at a cost of $28,000 in salary and benefits.
The addition of 11 full-time equivalent staff in the treasury department (1), clerk’s office (1), police service (4), parks and recreation (4) and property management (1) will add
approximately $750,000 to this year’s operating budget.
Contract, pay equity and job evaluation adjustments come at a cost of an additional $756,000.

“The budget generally preserves existing service levels to the public, is fiscally responsible and maintains the City’s competitive position.”

Aristone reminds members “Council has directed that one-half of one percent of the 2018 Levy or $261,800 be included in the draft 2019 budget for grants to outside community groups.”
Will council remain close to that grant target? This budget item has been a contentious issue in recent deliberations.
Aristone concludes, “the budget generally preserves existing service levels to the public, is fiscally responsible and maintains the City’s competitive position.” By the way, that is the very same quote he employed in 2017 and again in 2018.
Looking at some of the operating budgets in selected departments, the corporate administration figure for this year is almost $405,000, a 12.36 per cent increase over last year, mainly due to $70,000 in projected new expenditures for management consulting and strategic planning.
In the clerk’s department, the budget increases by 24.9 per cent to $563,000 as a result of a hike in wages and benefits with the addition of a full-time equivalent employee.
The treasury department budget increases by just under five per cent, mainly due to wages and benefits.
Over in HR, the budget increase this year is 10.1 per cent, due to several factors including wages, benefits, something called negotiations where the budget doubles to $10,000, and a 33 per cent hike in discretionary advertising.
No doubt we will be seeing a lot of hiring ads.
Of note in the HR department, as of the end of November legal costs had eaten up almost $111,000, well over the $75,000 budgeted.
Is this related to issues associated with departed employees?
With the police service, the budget increase is 5.4 per cent to $12.5 million. Of note is a 200 per cent increase in part-time wages to $105,000 and an 11.6 per cent bump in overtime/stat pay to $202,000.
We’ll check in with St. Thomas Police Service Chief Chris Herridge for the background on those numbers.
And, in the fire department, the budget actually decreases 0.34 per cent. Full-time wages are down 1.6 per cent, with overtime decreasing by almost nine per cent, although that still comes in at a projected $410,000.
As of the end of November, overtime had cost the department $416,000, with a budget set at $450,000 for 2018.
And, is this a sign of healthy growth in the city? The planning department budget increase for this year is 26.6 per cent, impacted mostly by wages and benefits.
Following Monday’s meeting, council will reconvene for further debate beginning 5 p.m. Thursday (Jan. 10) and the approval process is scheduled for the Jan. 21 regularly scheduled meeting.

Related post:

There’s little time to settle in, the 2019 St. Thomas budget looms ahead for new city council


She is well known in the area, having spent nearly a decade as Public Education Coordinator at the Alzheimer Society Elgin-St. Thomas, in addition to being volunteer coordinator at Victim Services Elgin.
And now, Stacy Wraight is launching an easy-to-access method of providing support to family members acting as caregivers for individuals living with dementia.
wraight, stacyWraight has chosen January – Alzheimer Awareness Month across Canada – to introduce Dementia Support Strategies, an online platform that affords caregivers the opportunity to speak directly to a consultant via video conference from their home or mobile phone, available in the evenings and weekends, when most government-funded support services are unavailable.
In a release issued yesterday (Jan. 4) Wraight noted during her time at the Alzheimer Society Elgin-St. Thomas, she observed, “families that were in the beginning stages of dementia were trying to live day-to-day with little or no knowledge of the disease.”
Wraight continues, “Understanding the changes to the brain are so important. It dispels the idea that the person is acting a certain way on purpose when those actions or words could be the effects of the disease.”
Wraight advises the impact of dementia on family relationships can be stressful, and she notes, according to a 2015 study undertaken in the United Kingdom, “57% of carers lose touch with family or friends as a result of their caring responsibilities, leading to increased isolation and emotional distress. Carers also felt that other family members did not understand the physical and emotional strain that caring places on them, which led to further resentment.”
Wraight advises Dementia Support Strategies aims “to give families, friends, neighbours or co-workers the opportunity to become dementia aware, to advocate on behalf of the person living with the disease, to give permission to voice feelings, concerns and strategize for healthier outcomes and interactions.”
You can find out more at dementiasupportstrategies.com


As referenced in this corner last week, our Dec. 22 story detailing Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek’s assurance “I can guarantee there will be a hospice in Elgin county . . . during my term” – based on a letter he received from Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott inviting the hospice planning committee to submit an application for provincial funding – drew considerable response from readers and individuals familiar with the proposed Serenity House Hospice.

Jeff Yurek hospice

Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek, with Linda Corriveau to his immediate right.

And, in the past week, Linda Corriveau resource centre manager, forwarded the following correspondence in response to questions submitted to her organization regarding their involvement with planning for the residential hospice.
She writes, “This news was welcomed with enthusiasm at Serenity House. Our primary goal has always been a residential hospice.
“Hospices provide patients with palliative care in a home-like setting, surrounded by
friends and family. Everyone should have access to dignified end-of-life care, where the wishes of the patient and family are respected.”
Corriveau continues, “Just over three years ago, with the support of the SWLHIN (Southwest Local Health Integration Network), Serenity House Hospice developed the Residential Hospice Planning Committee. The committee is comprised of dedicated hospice champions representing local organizations, SWLHIN representation, physicians and interested community members.
“St. Joseph’s Health Care Society was invited to join the planning committee. It was during this time that St. Joseph’s Health Care Society approached Serenity House Hospice to discuss collaboration between our agencies, as they were looking to expand.
“The next step was to commission an environmental scan of Elgin county in which Serenity House Hospice contributed a portion of the monies needed for the professional evaluation. The evaluation was needed to move the proposal forward and to see if a residential hospice could be sustainable in Elgin county.
Corriveau stresses, “Through the work of the committee, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Society was designated the lead agency for the residential hospice. St. Joseph’s has the experience of building and operating two residential hospices, located in Sarnia and London.
“Serenity House looks forward to a continued collaboration to fulfill our commitment of a residential hospice.”

Related post:

Canada’s singing priest got the ball rolling, now the province’s health minister is singing the praises of a hospice for St. Thomas/Elgin


prespa revised condos1jpgAn open house will be held from 6 to 8 p.m Jan. 15 at the Port Stanley Arena where the public will get a chance to view the revised plans for a proposed condominium development at 146-156 William Street in Port Stanley. The original nine-storey development has been modified to now consist of a pair of five-storey units.

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