Although various numbers have been bandied about in relation to the City of Greater Sudbury’s draft 2022 budget, it’s still a fluid document far from finalization.
This much was made clear during tonight’s virtual town hall-style meeting, at which city CAO Ed Archer stressed that the draft budget tabled on Nov. 2 is just that; a draft.
“These are proposed budget plans,” he said. “They become council’s budget once their deliberations are complete and the votes are finished and there are at that time directions to staff to implement the service plans and the changes that will come from council’s debate.”
This debate will take place over the course of three nights of finance and administration committee meetings, the first of which begins at 4 p.m. Monday. A livestream of these meetings will be available by clicking here.
In front of city council is a draft budget prepared by city administration that proposes a 4.7 per cent tax increase, which includes a 1.5 per cent special capital levy.
Although Archer clarified that this proposed budget is intended to follow city council’s guidance as closely as possible, it has yet to be debated by the city’s elected officials.
Further, it exceeds city council’s request for a three per cent tax increase, which Mayor Brian Bigger clarified to Sudbury.com last week he is still intent on achieving. It’ll be up to him and a team of 12 city councillors to determine what the final budget will look like.
They’re expected to finalize the city’s 2022 budget on Dec. 14 and approve a 2022 property tax policy in May.
Although tonight’s town hall meeting was one opportunity for the public to weigh in on budget deliberations, the city is also accepting public feedback online at overtoyou.greatersudbury.ca.
Those who submit public feedback by 4 p.m. Thursday will have their recommendations factored into next week’s budget deliberations.
A report will be sent to city council and added as an addendum to Monday’s meeting to ensure residents can view the results, city director of communications and community engagement Marie Litalien said.
Although city council will spend much of their deliberations debating additions to the budget, Archer clarified tonight that the existing budget isn’t exactly “status quo.”
“The approach to building the budget anticipates services will look consistent year over year,” he explained. “That doesn’t mean the same.”
Actual expenditures each year are factored into whatever’s presented in the subsequent year’s draft budget, he said, adding that nothing is automatic. Changes in budgeted expenditures are independently audited and are also reviewed by city council members in committee.
Included in Wednesday’s presentation was the recycling of a bar graph that claims “Greater Sudbury Property Taxes Among the Lowest in Ontario.”
Although both Archer and Jakubo offered this claim the context it requires during Wednesday’s meeting, a slide featuring the claim on the city’s website remains without the qualifier that it represents an example detached bungalow owner who would pay the second-lowest rate in Greater Sudbury among municipalities in Ontario with populations greater than 100,000.
Among Ontario municipalities regardless of population, the taxes they pay would be considered middle of the road.
In addition to the budget proposed by city administration, city council is expected to debate various business cases next week that could potentially drive the 2022 tax increase even higher. Several business cases have come in since Sudbury.com last reported on them, and the full updated list is expected to appear on the city’s 2022 budget web page later this week.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.