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The General/Finance Committee met on Wednesday, November 3rd and Thursday, November 4th to deliberate the Township’s Draft Capital and Operating Budget and Ten Year Forecast. Director of Financial Services Mark Donaldson explained that staff had been instructed to present a budget of 5% or less. Staff presented a draft budget with a 4.98% increase over the 2021 budget, or an increase of $21.26 per $500,000.00 of assessed property value. Mr. Donaldson reviewed both the Capital Budget and the Operating Budget with Committee.
Committee proceeded to discuss the “a-la-carte”, or service enhancement items which included staff enhancements: Communications Officer, Planner I, GIS Specialist, Seasonal By-Law Enforcement, Building Administrative Assistant and Septic Re-Inspection Program, Reserves: Community Improvement Reserves and Climate Change Reserves, and Operating Grants: South Muskoka Hospital Foundation, Habitat for Humanity and Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce. Following a brief discussion, it was decided that none of the operating grant requests would be added to the budget. With the addition of the staff enhancements and reserves the levy was increased to 8.65%.
An in-depth discussion was held regarding the levy increase and no decision was reached. It was determined that a further meeting would be necessary prior to holding a public meeting on the budget. Staff were asked to prepare draft budgets at 5%, 6% and 7%. CAO Derrick Hammond explained that staff had been given a budget guideline of 5% which they met, and that the inclusion of the “a-la-carte” items in another draft budget will include service level cuts.
The General/Finance Committee met on Tuesday, November 23rd to continue their discussions on the 2022 draft budgets. Mr. Donaldson explained to Committee that the base budget had increased to 5.5% with the additions of re-opening the Bala arena and the inclusion of part time salary that had been omitted from the original budget in error. With the addition of the “a-la-carte” items mentioned above, the levy increase over the 2021 budget had increased to 9.2%. Staff presented to Committee suggestions on how the budget increase could be reduced in groupings referred to as Green, Yellow and Red as outlined in Tables 8, 10 and 12 of the attached - 2022 - Budget Options
Prior to discussing how to increase revenue and reduce expenses, Mr. Donaldson explained that the levy could be reduced by 1.4% if the Community Improvement Reserve and Climate Change Reserve totalling $175,000.00 was funded by unallocated reserves this year. Once further discussion began Committee members immediately voiced concerns regarding removing the swimming program and requested that it remain in the budget. Following a discussion it was further decided that reductions to the Fire Department would not be made. Committee then removed the addition of the seasonal by-law officer from the “a-la-carte” budget items. With these changes, the net levy increase was reduced to a 6.6% increase over the 2021 budget, or a $31.14 increase per $500,000.00 of assessed property value for properties that have not had any modifications and been re-evaluated by MPAC.
A resolution was read and carried to endorse the budget in principle.
Public input on the draft Capital and Operating budget and 10 Year Forecast will be received at a Special Council Meeting at 2 PM.
Chair of the Library Board, Valerie Duke and Library CEO/Chief Librarian, Cathy Duck provided Committee with an update on the Muskoka Lakes Public Library. Ms. Duke reviewed how the Muskoka Lakes Public Library had made accommodations following it closure due to COVID-19 in March of 2020. During the winter and spring of 2021, the library was closed due to Provincial mandates but were able to offer outdoor deliveries, held online classes, featured local author events, and offered their “grab & go” and “take & make” arts and crafts kits programs. Library staff reached out to local seniors to help them to continue to use the library.
In the summer and fall of 2021 the Port Carling library re-opened for in person browsing with no appointment necessary, although there were capacity and time limits in place. During this time computer use was once again permitted, Wi-Fi was offered outdoors, inter-library loans were reinstated, the Bala library re-opened the beginning of August and public washrooms were re-opened. Furthermore, a vaccine clinic was held at the Port Carling Library in October 2021.
“Friends of the Library” continued to support the library throughout the year by funding and installing a water bottle refill station at the library, supplied story trail frames, books and supplies and lastly, provided funds so that the library could buy library bags which are for sale.
On September 25th, 2021 the Muskoka Lakes Public Library received official status and became an Accredited Public Library of Ontario. This status is given to 41 libraries out of 265 libraries in Ontario and is in place for five years.
ED Note: The Muskoka Ratepayers congratulate the library on their accreditation and for all the wonderful community oriented work that they do.
As was reported in the October Township Watch - Township Watch - October 2021 Council referred a discussion on the rehabilitation of Burgess 1 Dam to the General/Finance Committee. At the October Council meeting staff were asked to return to Committee with details on options and costs. Director of Public Works, Ken Becking, explained to Committee that four options were available:
Prior to hearing from Committee Mr. Becking stated that he believed there was no appetite by Council for a full replacement and “do nothing” was not an option available to the Township. Mr. Becking stated that the Township has an obligation to maintain the dam in a good state of repair.
Committee discussed their options stating:
Mr. Becking restated to Committee that they were discussing whether to rehabilitate the dam with or without a power generator. CAO Derrick Hammond explained to Committee that they were not there to discuss divesting the dam. The Township is currently responsible for the dam and Committee needs to decide if they wish to have a power generation or not.
A resolution was read and carried to rehabilitate Burgess 1 Dam and powerhouse.
As reported in the October Township Watch the General/Finance Committee voted on alternate uses of the Bala arena during the winter of 2021/2022. Members of the Bala community explained to Council how important the Bala arena was to the community. That the arena, which offers a first class ice surface, was part of winter in Bala.
Director of Public Works, Ken Becking, explained to Council that currently there is one commitment to use the Bala arena for one to two hours a week. The Port Carling arena is booked at 60% capacity with hopes that winter hockey will raise that to 80% to 85%. Mr. Becking stated that the operating budget that had been reviewed by the General/Finance Committee did not include ice being placed in Bala and it would be an additional $100,000.00 to do so.
Following the presentations Councillors stated that:
A resolution to install ice in the Bala arena for the 2021-2022 winter season as quickly as possible was read and carried.
CAO Derrick Hammond reviewed the Township re-opening plan - Facility Usage - for Council. As Mr. Hammond reviewed the plan for the Township, he stated that the Province has just halted the re-opening of “high risk settings”. Director of Public Works, Ken Becking, stated that the report laid out in detail where the Township currently is in their re-opening plan and where they are heading. Mr. Becking stated it is a “crawl, walk, run” situation.
It was explained to Council that although community centres can open for two time slots a day, the Province has stated that an employee of the corporation must be present to verify vaccination status. And that all events held at community centres and arenas will need to be supervised by Township staff. It was further explained that the waiver form those in attendance were filling out is impractical. A waiver will be placed on the front door of facilities. Furthermore screening must be active at these facilities to confirm identification, vaccination status and that those attending have no symptoms. In reply to a question, Mr. Becking explained that all events are considered “stand alone events” and screening must take place each time.
Mr. Hammond explained to Council that the Medical Officer of Health has said they should continue to hold Council meetings virtually. When the time is appropriate Council meetings will be moved to the Port Carling Community Centre where hybrid meetings will be held with staff and Councillors present and the public attending electronically.
A resolution was read and carried to accept the Township of Muskoka Lakes operations COVID-19 re-opening framework.
Official Plan Amendment 56 (OPA 56) the Resort Village of Minett has been before Planning Committee on an ongoing basis to review/reduce development rights on commercial properties in Minett. The revised draft of OPA 56 with revisions made from an October 25th, 2021, Planning Committee meeting was before Council for discussion and approval - OPA 56 - Minett
Members of the public spoke thanking Council for their hard work on this item and voicing concerns regarding:
Paula Bustard, representing Clevelands House, thanked everyone who has worked on this OPA for many years. Ms. Bustard spoke reiterating that they want a “light footprint” with their development, but voiced concern that from “a policy and implementation” perspective sometimes overly prescriptive language of policies “does not actually result in a better development” but may force built form and site configuration. Ms. Bustard then outlined their concerns with OPA 56:
Director of Development Services and Environmental Sustainability, David Pink, reviewed for Council the concerns listed by the public and Ms. Bustard prior to Council discussions. Councillors asked questions and voiced concerns including but not limited to:
Mr. Pink explained that he would draft a resolution with the requested changes. Once passed, the changes would be made to the OPA and the complete record would be forwarded to the District for their approval. It was Mr. Pink’s opinion that District staff would say the decision should be made by Council. If changes are requested to the OPA the Township would be approached to participate. Mr. Pink would then bring those requests to the Planning Committee or Council. Mayor Harding reminded Council that those who sit on District Council will still be involved in the process.
A resolution to enact OPA 56 and forward it to District for approval - OPA Resolution - was read and carried.
As previously reported when the Township passed a new No Parking by-law regulations for Beaumaris Road were omitted in error. Council voted to correct inaccuracies in the by-law and restore parking restrictions on Beaumaris Road. This will align the no parking by-law with the signage on Beaumaris Road. A resolution to this was read and carried.
Council voted to appoint Brad Shadlock as a new building inspector with the Township.
Communications and Economic Development Specialist, Corey Moore informed Committee that community engagement on the community improvement plan for Bala and Port Carling had occurred through two open houses and a survey and feedback was included in the draft before them. Consultant Donna Hinde reviewed the plan for Committee including “tweaks” that need to be made to dark sky, accessible parking, short term initiatives such as bike stations, crosswalks, boardwalks, signage and converting James Bartleman Way to pedestrian only space.
Committee members had concerns regarding:
In reply to concerns regarding parking Ms. Hinde stated that there is ample parking within a five-minute walk to the core of Port Carling and Bala. Ms. Hinde further stated the individuals had commented that there are no places to picnic in Port Carling. The community improvement plan is encouraging active healthy living.
A resolution was read and carried for staff to complete a revised draft of the community improvement plan for Council’s consideration.
This item returned to Planning Committee with requested changes from the October Planning Meeting - Township Watch - October 2021. Chief Municipal By-Law Enforcement Officer, Rob Kennedy, presented the second draft to Committee. By-Law Policy - Draft 2 Mr. Kennedy stated that a manual should be generic in nature and not be too specific.
Mr. Kennedy provided Committee with a list of by-laws that staff feel should be reviewed and/created:
Following a brief discussion, including the suggestion that the short-term rental by-law be added to the list for review, a resolution was read to approve the policies and procedures manual with its list of by-laws to be reviewed starting with the site alteration by-law. The resolution carried.