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Provincial cuts, rising costs squeeze city budget

By: Darren MacDonald - Sudbury Northern Life

 | Aug 12, 2014 - 1:44 PM |
Provincial grants for Greater Sudbury is forecast to decline by more than $8 million over the next three years, members of the city's finance department were told Tuesday.

Provincial grants for Greater Sudbury is forecast to decline by more than $8 million over the next three years, members of the city's finance department were told Tuesday.

Transfers to dip by more than $8M over next three years

Provincial grants for Greater Sudbury is forecast to decline by more than $8 million over the next three years, members of the city's finance department were told Tuesday.

Lorella Hayes, the city's chief financial officer, said for next year, that means the city will lose about $3.1 million in provincial transfers. She estimates that in 2016, another $2.8 million will be lost, and another $2.5 million in 2017. Hayes gave her three-year budget outlook Tuesday morning at Tom Davies Square.

Since 2012, provincial transfers to Greater Sudbury have declined from $35.4 million to an estimated $28.3 million next year, Hayes said.

“Of course, the excuse from the province is that they're uploading costs for other programs," said Ward 3 Coun. Claude Berthiaume. “But they're uploading $800,000 … and we're getting $3.1 million less for 2015.”

The current property tax hike is estimated to be 4.9 per cent, although that is expected to drop by the time the budget is approved early next year. In the last several years, property taxes have gone up by 3.5 per cent (2011), 2.8 per cent (2012) and 2.9 per cent (2013 and 2014).

Hayes delivered a three-year forecast Tuesday, which estimated assessment growth to increase by a paltry 0.6 per cent between 2015 and 2017. That's after an average of 1.3 per cent growth since 2005, including a 2.4 per cent increase in 2012 alone. The total city budget is expected to be $516 million in 2015, $527 million in 2016 and $538 million in 2017.

In additional to cuts from the province, energy costs are expected to increase substantially – including a 16-per-cent increase in natural gas prices. Other budget increases include:

– Increase in the cost of winter control contracts — including the
street-sweeping contract — are responsible for a $500,000 increase in roads maintenance;

– An estimated $1-million increase in Sudbury Transit's budget is a result of increased fuel costs, an increased provision for debt financing for the new Lorne Street garage, an increase to the garage repair budget and a minimal increase in revenue as a result of reduced ridership;

– And an increase in the fire services budget of $1 million “primarily a result of contractual wage and benefit increases and the effect of collective bargaining for volunteer fire fighters.”

With the Oct. 27 municipal election, the budget process won't begin in earnest until December, when a draft budget will be presented to the new mayor and council. Public input sessions will be scheduled in January 2015.
Darren MacDonald

Darren MacDonald

Staff Writer

@Darrenmacd

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