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Town tackling initial budget shortfall

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It’s budget time again and it looks like town council will have its work cut out for it, facing a preliminary operating budget shortfall of $301,266—representing a 3.1 percent residential overall increase.

This shortfall does not include consideration for a possible levy increase from the Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board nor any new capital long-term debt payments, said town treasurer Laurie Witherspoon, who presented the preliminary 2012 operating budget to council at Monday night’s regular meeting.

It also does not include the possible impact of the outstanding mill assessment appeal write-off for the 2009-11 taxation years.

According to her calculations, Witherspoon said if the mill appeal is 100 percent successful, the town would be looking at giving the company a refund of a little over $3 million.

If the appeal is 50 percent successful, that’s $1.5 million the town would be paying back to the mill’s owner.

If it’s 25 percent, that translates to $725,000.

As well, the town would lose $800,000 in tax revenue going forward.

Referring to uncontrollable costs, Coun. Paul Ryan, the town’s representative on the Northwestern Health Unit board, noted the health unit levy should not change in 2012.

The board has directed health unit administration to come up with a zero percent increase to the per capita levy for a seventh-straight year.

Meanwhile, Coun. Ken Perry said the local DSSAB is working on its 2012 budget right now.

As mentioned above, the town’s preliminary 2012 operating budget indicates a shortfall of $301,266 at this point.

Compared to the 2011 operating budget, it reflects the following increases or decreases broken down by division:

•a corporate revenue increase of 0.165 percent (this equals minus $15,790);

•a net decrease of 2.568 percent for the Administration and Finance division (minus $33,704);

•a net increase of 1.445 percent for the Community Services division ($74,252)

•a net increase of 8.772 percent for the Operations and Facilities division ($272,720); and

•a net increase of 0.985 percent for the Planning and Development division ($3,788).

The 2012 budget process began with the adoption of the budget timetable and a public meeting, which was held Sept. 26.

Since then, administration has been working on operational projections and capital needs for the coming year.

There has been a cursory review at the divisional level by all executive committees, noted Witherspoon.

The budget process now will include a series of meetings of the committee of the whole, during which time “mayor and council will have ample opportunity to affect changes to the budget documents through active participation and consultation with administration,” Witherspoon noted in her report.

“Clearly, there is a great deal of work to do and prudent decisions to be made for this year’s budget,” she added.

The first committee of the whole meeting on the 2012 budget will be held this Monday (Jan. 16) at 4 p.m. at the Civic Centre.

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