Just this past week, Council completed its 2024 budget deliberations. The final increase for this year was above our targeted goal, and we ended up at 4.15%. Now while this number is higher than many of us would have liked, we do have a lot of external pressures which are contributing to our financial situation. We did a comparison to 40 other Ontario municipalities. The average increase for 2024 amongst these municipalities is 4.87%. Of note this year, Toronto is looking at a ~10% increase.
There are some worthwhile investments in this budget. Some of the projects include the resurfacing of numerous tennis and basketball courts, playground equipment, a new park in East Ridge, pool repairs, numerous upgrades to the Civic Complex, maintenance across various city facilities, investments in infrastructure, and new equipment for our first responders.
We are undertaking some initiatives to reduce our costs overtime. This includes a shift to electric vehicles, which is long overdue, and bringing legal services in house. These cost savings will start to show in future budgets.
There is also added funding for the United Way’s Last Resort program which has proven itself as a way to prevent homelessness. As a note, our Massey Place project was approved in the 2023 budget. Additional funding for medical recruitment was added as well as funding for various partners and groups. My intent is not to go into detailed specifics here as more detail on the budget is available on our website.
I wanted to also comment briefly on the funding that we provide to some of our partners. Unfortunately, there was some misinformation spread during the budget process which led to some incorrect assumptions being made. It all started with the presentation of outside organizations that the City funds. Council is provided this information every budget cycle by our administration, however, this year the information was presented slightly differently. Suddenly, there was a suggestion that all of the listed services, and some not listed, were being cut, and that Council was cancelling agreements with these organizations, or trying to close facilities. None of this was factual.
I wanted to provide some details on two specific groups which came up frequently. The City currently pays $227,000 in rent to St. Lawrence College for use of the Aultsville Theatre and an additional $70,000 to the Aultsville Theatre group directly for a total of $297,000. The City also provides $109,221 in funding to Big Ben, which is currently operated by a private corporation. I wanted to highlight both of these organizations as there were incorrect funding numbers circulating and incorrect claims of closures and cuts.
The spread of misinformation was unfortunate because it created undue panic and stress amongst many people. As many of the groups who reached out or presented at Council were told, there was never any plan to cut any of these organizations. Again, this is why I ask residents to not put any stock into rumours and to fact check what is actually being done by Council or what is happening in the city. There is no benefit to spreading misinformation as it casts a cloud of negativity and doubt which is just unnecessary.
For the 2025 budget, we are looking to start the deliberations in November of this year, which will allow us to start earlier, plan smarter and put in line with most other municipalities across Ontario. Stay tuned for more information on that budget cycle and opportunities for public input.