Northumberland County Council Approves First-Ever Three-Year Budget, Focused on Strategic Growth and Affordable Housing

In City Hall

Northumberland County Council has approved a first-ever multi-year budget, spanning 2024 through 2026. Aligned with the County’s newly established 2023-2027 Community Strategic Plan, this forward-looking budget prioritizes investments in services, housing and growth-enabling infrastructure, aiming to foster intentional growth and critical housing services to meet the evolving needs of the community.

At Wednesday’s meeting of County Council, Warden Brian Ostrander emphasized the significance of introducing a budget-planning process with a longer horizon. “This will enable us to align short-term decisions with long-term strategies. In so doing, we are ensuring stronger financial management that will better enable the County to anticipate needs, allocate resources efficiently, and prevent unexpected shortfalls.”

The County’s budget process begins in June of each year, when Council establishes a target levy increase around which staff are directed to build the following year’s budget. The target for the years 2024 through 2026 was set at 4 per cent.

Staff began presenting budget overviews for each department at Committee meetings starting in September. Consolidation of department budgets into an overarching budget for the organization took place in the fall, during which time staff began refining the budget to align with the target levy increase directed by Council. Council received the final draft budget in late November, followed by a full-day meeting for review and deliberation on Wednesday, December 6th.

Following additional discussion at yesterday’s regular meeting of County Council, Council approved a base levy increase, after growth, of 4.57 per cent for 2024, sustaining current levels of service and reinforcing essential programs, amid inflationary pressures. This budget not only preserves support for quality operations, capital infrastructure investments and housing, but also addresses the need to contribute to reserves and mitigate the impacts of provincial downloading.

Breakdown of estimated tax impact, after growth, for 2024 through 2026:
· Base levy increases of:
· 4.57 per cent in 2024
· 6.64 per cent in 2025
· 6.86 per cent in 2026

· Increase of 1.0 per cent for the Dedicated Infrastructure Levy, introduced in 2016 to address the widening gap in funding for repair and replacement of critical infrastructure.

· Increase of 1.0 per cent for a new Dedicated Housing Levy, to prioritize investments in needed housing and homelessness infrastructure.

Total levy increases during this period (base levy plus dedicated levies) will be:
· 6.57 per cent for 2024
· 8.64 per cent for 2025
· 8.86 per cent for 2026

For 2024, the owner of a median-assessed home in Northumberland can anticipate paying $1,463.28, based on an estimated $91.45 increase on the County portion of their property taxes. This is subject to adjustments in 2024 based on tax policy and information from the Municipal Property Assessment Corporate (MPAC).
Investing in Northumberland: budget highlights

· Sustained funding for homelessness supports and emergency shelter services based on 2023’s significant increase in investments. In addition, in response to community need and resident feedback, a new investment in the amount $241,000 has been identified to support a 6-month pilot addiction treatment program.

· Addition of a 12-hour paramedic crew and ambulance in response to escalating demand for paramedic emergency response services, along with development of a new Brighton Emergency Services Base in partnership with the municipality.

· Continued efforts to integrate the Canada-Wide Early Learning and Childcare Program for subsidized child care into the local system, and to expand availability of child care spaces.

· Extension of the pilot Commuter Connect regional transit program, with a mid-year review planned for 2024.

· Advancement of the public-private partnership to deliver high-speed internet to all communities and businesses in Northumberland.

· Continuation of major infrastructure projects including the Golden Plough Lodge & Northumberland County Archives and Museum and the Elgin Park, Cobourg affordable housing redevelopment, the start of construction on the Ontario Street, Cobourg affordable housing development, and investments in property acquisition for new builds, along with housing reserves.

· With a dedicated Environmental Officer now in place, the County will work with stakeholders throughout 2024 to finalize a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan, and begin work on a Climate

Adaptation and Resiliency Plan.

· Completion of 134km of road resurfacing and paving throughout the county, along with advancement of several major bridge projects including the new Trent River Crossing in Campbellford.

“This budget process and our final direction was shaped by feedback from the community, received through extensive public engagement efforts throughout this past year,” states Warden Ostrander. “In speaking with residents, stakeholders, and community partners, we heard how investments in areas such as affordable housing and homelessness resources, regional transit, child care, health services, and environmental sustainability were of paramount importance.

“We also heard that, with inflationary pressures and cost-of-living increases, these are difficult times for our residents and businesses. Council respects the trust placed in us by our community to manage finances prudently, particularly given the current environment. We believe we have arrived at a long-term budget that addresses community needs while ensuring each dollar is invested responsibly and wisely.”

With a three-year budget now in place, there will be annual reviews to make changes as necessary, such as responding to new policy and regulations, revised council direction, or new funding opportunities.

“At the end of the day there is only one taxpayer,” comments Warden Ostrander. “Each year when we update the budget, we will continue to look for cost-saving opportunities and adapt to changes.”

Striking a balance:
Over the next three-years, Northumberland County will invest approximately $200 million annually. Of the total 2024 County Budget, 34 per cent comes from tax levy dollars, while 66 per cent comes from reserves, service fees, and other funding sources such as grants.

Department business plans and budgets, as well as a consolidated County budget, are available on our website at Northumberland.ca/Budget.

Pete Fisher
Author: Pete Fisher

Has been a photojournalist for over 30-years and have been honoured to win numerous awards for photography and writing over the years. Best selling author for the book Highway of Heroes - True Patriot Love

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