- Council approved sending the following Staff recommendations to Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing regarding their reconsideration of modifications to York Region’s Official Plan, which we covered in a recent article:
- The Town will again ask the Province to allow usage of Greenbelt lands along the 404 for employment purposes, reiterating Council’s longstanding support for this initiative.
- They will endorse the Province’s decision to incorporate all of Stouffville’s remaining Whitebelt lands into the Town’s Settlement Area, making them available for development.
- Through a late addendum, Council also supported a request that would allow use of prime agricultural areas within Oak Ridges Moraine Countryside lands for public service facilities.
- These service facilities include public assets such as infrastructure, parks, community and recreation centres, and fire stations. They are not currently permitted on prime agricultural lands by the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan.
- These comments and recommendations were approved on a 6-1 vote, with only Councillor Sherban in opposition. Bullet Point News will cover this in greater detail in an upcoming piece.
- Stouffville’s draft 2024 budgets were received, and a related presentation was given by the Town’s Finance department. We cover some of the budget discussion below, and Staff’s presentation and Council’s deliberations can be viewed here.
- Council authorized Staff to negotiate agreements for the purchase of a new fire pumper truck and the refurbishment of an existing fire tanker truck following significant increases in related pricing and build cycles. These units have an allocated budget of $1.8 million, or $900,000 per truck.
- A motion from Councillor Upton was approved which will see signage added to Stouffville’s roundabouts informing pedestrians and drivers of safe transiting operations. A pilot project will also add raised crosswalks at the West Lawn Crescent and Millard Street roundabout.
- A by-law was passed that will see all of Stouffville’s parks given proper names and municipal addresses and affixed with related signage. Staff will also be looking into addresses for other public lands such as stormwater management system sites and the Town’s reservoir.
Prior to the Staff presentation, Mayor Lovatt provided a statement regarding the Town’s draft 2024 budgets. He discussed how the budget process was impacted by newly acquired Strong Mayor Powers, covered in our initial 2024 budget article, and thanked Staff departments for their months of work formulating the budgets and budget books.
Lovatt also addressed some finer points within the budgets. He highlighted inflationary impacts raising costs for the municipality, but also referenced affordability concerns as Stouffville residents face their own cost of living increases. Saying he and the Town worked hard to keep tax increases as low as reasonably possible, the budget proposes a 1.47% operations tax levy and a 3% levy to support the Town’s capital objectives. “Based on what I have seen…this will be one of the lowest blended tax rates in the GTA,” Lovatt proclaimed.
For context, Staff estimate a property assessed at $600,000 will see a resulting $141.67 municipal tax increase. Homes assessed at $800,000 would see an increase of $188.89, and those assessed at $1.8 million would see an increase of $425.
Calling the final draft a “reset budget,” the Mayor explained how earlier iterations considered a 16% operating levy increase. On top of numerous financial pressures, 18 new full-time positions were initially proposed; however, they were eventually cut down to just three.
“With some hard work, we addressed the pressures by applying increased revenues from investment returns, increased revenues from Town programming, and new property assessment growth, and I am happy that we have landed at a 1.47% increase,” Mayor Lovatt stated. “This is the lowest operating tax levy the Town has seen in over a decade, with the exception of our 2021 COVID budget.”
He also detailed a variety of issues surrounding compensation for both Town Staff and Council members. Every four years, the Town conducts a Municipal Compensation Review (MCR) to assess and compare compensation to similar municipalities in the GTA. “Compensation is one of the determining factors when we have seen staff exit to a similar job at another municipality, and over the years we have lost some really good people,” Lovatt noted.
By reducing the number of new full-time hires, the Town can now fully implement the MCR for existing staff without aggressive operating levy increases. This would help the the Town attract the best talent and avoid impacts resulting from staff departures, which the Mayor commented on: “The war for talent is fierce, and for every staff member we lose, it costs us, the tax payers, approximately $32,000.”
The MCR also suggested Councillors each receive a $3,000 raise, which was included in the budget. However, Lovatt decided to defer consideration of a recommended $22,000 mayoral pay raise until 2026—though he will receive a $3,000 increase to the Mayor’s car allowance.
Finally, Lovatt covered the Town’s capital projects program for the upcoming year. As supply chain issues continue to impact Stouffville’s ability to deliver projects in a timely manner, Lovatt and Staff decided to only move forward with “mission-critical” new projects in 2024. By doing so, the Town hopes to catch up on its growing list of carried-forward projects from past years. This strategy also resulted in a much lower capital budget, which is detailed here.
“We want to hear from you, the residents, on these budgets,” Lovatt implored of the public as he concluded his remarks. “I called for a Special Council meeting on Tuesday, November 21st, at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers…to encourage everyone to have their say. If you can’t make it, you can email your comments to me.”