Few questions as Woolwich budget process starts rolling
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Few questions as Woolwich budget process starts rolling

Councillors quickly approve staff proposals rolled out for four departments in first of three special meetings slated for January

Woolwich councillors moved quickly at last week’s special budget session – the first of three – approving the budgets of four departments with little scrutiny and fewer questions.

Cleared to go January 9 were the 2014 financial plans for the chief administrative office, council and information services, finance, and fire.

The go-ahead included yet another expansion to the staffing ranks in the form of two full-time positions to replace a contract position (junior bylaw enforcement officer) in the clerk’s department and a part-time job (chief fire prevention officer) in the fire department.

The bylaw officer bumps the current $50,000 expenditure to $75,000. Deputy clerk Val Hummel noted the township has had trouble filling its enforcement positions and more trouble keeping people in place.

The fire department now adds another full-time job to the tune of $86,000 from the current budget allocation of $47,000.

In discussing the change for the fire prevention officer, township fire chief Rick Pedersen pointed to an increase in duties mandated by the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office, including the rollout out of mandatory carbon monoxide (CO) detectors and new inspections of long-term care homes.

There’s been no one in the part-time position since 2012. A full-time position would draw more qualified candidates, he said.

Everyone in the department feels the job is so important that none of the firefighters will take a pay increase in 2014, preferring the money be channelled into the position, he added.

“They’re all kicking in their bit,” said Pedersen, noting the wage will stay at $22 per hour.

Also in the department’s budget is $20,000 for adjustments in the fire master plan covering Maryhill and Breslau.

The Maryhill station is in need of some $500,000 in repairs – the floor is sinking and the roof must be replaced – so the study will look at whether it makes sense to renovate or replace the building. As well, with growth in Breslau and the eventual need for a station there, the coverage area will have to be looked at.

A third position, engineering technologist, has been pitched for the engineering and planning services budget. Entirely new, it would add $94,000 to the growing payroll.

Overall, the township budget for 2014 sees operating expenses of $13.8 million, up 4.4 per cent from the $13.2 million in last year’s budget.

On the capital side, the township sees spending of $7,053,846, an increase of 3.5 per cent from a budget of $6,808,220 in 2013.

The extra spending is to be funded in part by a tax increase of 1.5 per cent. That would add $9.44 to the township portion of the average tax bill, using an assessed value of $269,000, said director of finance Richard Petherick.

As well, homeowners will pay another one per cent as a special infrastructure levy, adding $6.23 on average.

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