Let’s take a look at some of the budget highlights for business as presented in the budget highlight book:
On the operating side, the Tax Ratio Reduction Program proposed by the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce,
Kawartha Manufacturers Association, and Peterborough and the Kawarthas Association of Realtors for the Commercial and Industrial property owners will continue on the timeline established in the 2016 budget. This means that Peterborough businesses can continue to remain competitive with similar businesses in other communities.
For example, consider two businesses in the same sector with the same bricks and mortar footprint. In the past, the business in Peterborough could be paying up to $30,000 more in taxes than the business in the other community. The Tax Ratio Reduction Program is designed to even the playing field with other Ontario communities and bring the City of Peterborough into the province’s range of fairness.
The City will pay 1,052.6 full and part-time equivalent employees $98.7 million for salaries and benefits in 2017.
On the capital side, the 2017 budget includes 193 projects totaling $79 million. The money raised through the one percent increase for capital funding will be used to help increase the amount of money the City can safely borrow by $16.6 million.
Some of the projects on the table include:
- Library Renovation and Expansion
- Peterborough Humane Society Funding for new building
- Low floor specialized transit vehicle
Also receiving a push forward is the Charlotte Street renewal and Louis Street Urban Park project. $700,000 is included in the 2017 budget. However, another $2.1 million will be required to complete the work. When done, it's anticipated the project will help stimulate renewal in the Downtown Core and the Charlotte Street West Business District.
The new arena facility project to replace the Northcrest Arena will receive $1.2 million in 2017. This money will be used to get a detailed design completed and Request for Tender (RFT) documents prepared. Beyond 2017, $30.3 million will be required to complete the project. City staff expect about $11.6 million to come from development charges, leaving the City to fund $18.7 million from other sources including user fees, community sponsors, grants or tax supported debt financing.
The City has also submitted an application to the Ontario 150 Community Capital Program for a $300,000 grant supporting the $600,000 rehabilitation of Barnardo Park in 2017.
An always contentious issue is the Police Services Budget, which has been approved in full for operations, with a suggestion to delay replacing a vehicle for a year as a way to save money. The total budget is just under $25 million.
The budget process is one of reflection and sets the blueprint for action for the coming year. It’s a process that happens in individual communities and has an impact on all citizens.
In a recent interview for the Chamber's Business 911 program, Peterborough City CAO Allan Seabrooke spoke of the importance of capital projects and how improving the city helps with business attraction and retention.
The budget process is not one that exists in isolation. A municipal budget is also reflective of the political environment and policies at the provincial and federal levels.
Consider the new federal funding for public transit infrastructure. Those projects can happen at a faster pace with federal funding. But this type of funding is not always available and may only be available to use in a specific year.
At the provincial level, after many years of downloading services to municipalities, there has been some uploading of services back to the province. But there is one area in which chambers of commerce and boards of trade are asking for reform and that is in the interest arbitration system. Interest arbitration is the only legal mechanism available to Ontario municipalities for settling disputes from contract negotiations with essential service providers. The call is to ensure that this system reflects the municipality’s ability to pay increased costs (Obstacles and Opportunities: The Importance of Small Business, OCC 2016).
This is a good budget, a responsible one, but remember it still does not solve all of the City’s issues. There are still a lot of infrastructure dollars needed for capital projects and raising those dollars will be a continuous challenge.