Following cuts, Brantford’s operating budget is now sitting at just over $161.2 million and a 2.18 percent increase over 2019.
The city’s Estimates Committee is in the midst of budget discussions. Deliberations began with a projected 2.41 percent increase over last year.
For the average taxpayer, that means an increase of $53.78 in 2020. However, with the addition of a capital levy .75 percent, the actual increase is closer to $77.58 per household. The levy has been put in place to aid the funding of a 10 year capital program. That program is pegged at $872 million and is needed to keep municipal assets in good repair.
Chair of the Estimates Committee, Councillor Greg Martin, says efficiencies were found by the city’s new CAO, Brian Hutchings, after council sent the budget back to staff to review for additional savings.
“We have a CAO now that sees the target as something realistic,” Martin says. “He was able to bring in a budget that comes in underneath the target that council set for staff. Quite often we’ll see the budget start out at a very high amount and council has to take a deep dive into the line by line to get it down to something reasonable and then it goes back up when all the unmet needs start coming in.”
Martin says he’s impressed with the work Hutchings has done with budget savings within only three months in his role with the city. “He’s brought back re-structuring that saved almost $1 million. He did recommend that most of that million get spent on new staff in areas where they’re needed in the city,” Martin adds. “But I think, all in all, it has put the city in a good position going forward.”
Martin also says, this year’s proposed budget is under the rate of inflation.
One of the largest increases to the budget was to police services. The $35.9 million policing budget includes creating 17 new jobs in the service.
“We do have a very high crime severity index in Brantford and part of the way to deal with that is to increase the police budget. It’s an unfortunate necessity, but it is something we have to do to keep the citizens of Brantford safe. As a member of the police services board, I didn’t like the amount of the increase the police had but a lot of it was well justified and it’s going to make a difference.”Councillor Greg Martin, Estimates Committee Chair
The budget is expected to be approved by council at the special meeting on Monday, December 16th.