Windsor Budget 2020 – Part 1: Operations Recommended and Not…

This post is my initial review of the 2020 City of Windsor Budget. A subsequent post will review the capital budget and a thirds post will skim the ABCs, User fees and Departments. This review isn’t comprehensive rather it just highlight some items that I find interesting. In a few cases I will compare budget lines to the 2019 budget to see if shifts have occurred.

The page numbers that are listed below reflect to the PDF page that I reviewed.

Operational Recommended Items

Issue Number 2020-0064 Pg 41 – One-Time Funding of Financial Analyst – Parks & Recreation Support$74,245

Honestly this is one of those meat and potato thing that I would have figured had occurred long ago. As the report states given the number of high profile venues and activities overseen by the department and given the City’s restrained fiscal management process I find it surprising that Parks and Rec haven’t had a dedicated financial analyst in their ranks. This could point to the lean operating model that the City has employed in an effort to keep taxes low.

Issue Number 2020-0159 Pg 45 – Dirty Yard Work Order User Fee Revenue Reduction – $335,750

The $335,000 is not the full shortfall but from my understanding the total cost of the enforcement of dirty yards. Should a property violate this by-law twice in a year then the repeat offender is fined $215. The goal of the program is to reduce “dirty yards” in the city and in 2018 6,700 calls were made and only 10% came back as repeat offenders.

Issue Number 2020-0236 Pg 49 – Increase in the Re-inspection User Fee – $2,000

Recommending to increase the re-inspection fine from $75 to $215 or full cost recovery to come into alignment with the Dirty Yard fee.

Issue Number 2020-0067 Pg 74 – Increase in Staffing to Continue Friday Branch Hours – $98,412

Funding to make Friday operation at all Library locations permanent.

Issue Number 2020-0316 Pg 106 – Hiring of an Active Transportation Coordinator – $91,480

Based on this: CR380/2019
“That City Council APPROVE the Hiring of an Active Transportation Coordinator; and, That the position BE FUNDED from a first charge to the 2020 Operating Budget.”

The first step in seeing the Active Transit Master plan implemented. Some of the first dollars out of the Operating budget went here due to the Council direction.

Issue Number 2020-0083 Pg 143 – Increase in Sidewalk Cafe Encroachment Fee Revenues (as Approved by Council) – $18,000

The next step up in the fee for patios on sidewalks to $2.50 per sq ft.

Issue Number 2020-0275 Pg 229 – Sunday Service Enhancement – $948,037

This investment will add an additional 136 hours of service across the system on Sundays which will allow more routes to run longer improving overall transit service.

Issue Number 2020-0227 Pg 233 – Establishment of Operating Budget for Paul Martin Building (PMB) – $280,240

This is the trickle down of the Library sale, although the WPL will be inhabiting about 20,000 sq ft. of the Paul Martin Building the rest of the building, now owned by the City needs to be maintained. The total maintenance according to the report is estimated around $780,000 per year, which the Library is covering their share. The $280,000 seems to be the increase that is required for the City to maintain the whole building over the previous library building.

Issue Number 2020-0124 Pg 270 – Decrease in Ontario Works (OW) Program Delivery (PD) Provincial Revenue $573,044

Although not a cut from the Province, the Ontario works program was required to submit a budget not exceeding the previous years budget allocation. The total impact was $728,179 with various saving reducing the amount to the $573,000 through not filling vacant positions, reducing purchased services and other efficiencies. Other additional items include Issue Numbers 2020-0241; 2020-0126; 2020-0372; also appear to be budgets items where provincial changes to programs are negatively impacting local budget.

Issue Number 2020-0230 Pg 276 – Social Housing Service Level Standards $162,694

This is the first of 3 years of increases to housing funding under new service standards that the City must maintained. Although cost shared with the county the new service standards requires the city to tackle it’s wait list (approximately 5,000) for housing. The proposed method is a housing subsidy program that will be expanded over the next 3 years. The total allocation for this year is $250,000 with the difference coming from the County

Issue Number 2020-0231 Pg 280 – Funding to Expand Street Outreach – $69,926

This is making the City’s contribution to the MOST van permanent and adding funding for an additional Social workers to support this initiative. It is great to see the new position and important program made permanent from the City side of things!

Issue Number 2020-0377 Pg 319 – Reallocation of Funding From Grand Prix Event to Open Streets II Event – $50,000

This is money that was previously put to the Detroit Grand Prix and is now being allocated to an as of yet, unknown family event. It seems that “Open Streets 2” is the placeholder currently.

The Not Recommended items are divided into two part: not cutting something that already exists OR not accepting a proposed increase as a means to help better illustrate the types of items that are not being recommended as a means to lower the tax burden.

Many items like eliminating Sunday and Holiday Transit service are only included for the purpose of the exercise of reaching a 0% tax increase. There is really no logic to their inclusion administration is recommending actions that enhance the same services they offer up to cut.

Not Cutting

Issue Number 2020-0102 pg 43 Closure of One Windsor Public Library Branch – $844,906

Closing the Fontainbleau and Riverside Libraries would have just under $845,000, the only reason this is in the budget is due to the mandate for administration to show a “path to 0% tax increase”.

Issue Number 2020-0175 Pg 68 Reduction in Environmental Master Plan Services $24,942

As a part of trying to reach 0% increase a cut to the environmental master plan. The cut would be a 50% cut to the funding to the master plan.

Issue Number 2020-0199 Pg 95 Elimination of Residential Bulk Collection Program -$63,602

Bulk item pick up is not – recommended to be removed. It won’t be going away but one thing that is surprising is that there is no sign of making the Bulk Item pick up free. Unless that will be coming as a supplementary report to Council or is hidden in the capital budget/department budgets that I haven’t reviewed (yet).

Issue Number 2020-0263, Issue Number 2020-0264, Issue Number 2020-0350 starts on Pg 161 Closure of Outdoor Pools

3 Options of outdoor pool closures are offered with 6 pools (3 pairs of 2 -Mic Mac and Central, Atkinson and Lanspeary, Reamington and Riverside) on the chopping block in each option. What this report points too is the lag between the budget being draft and recent events as the Rec Master Plans mentioned in these budget descriptions which has already been voted on by council. These are just hear for a math exercise of trying to get to 0% tax increase.

If the pools are closed a $100 – $150K per year would be save and millions in upcoming capital that would be deferred

Not Adding

Issue Number 2020-0066 Pg 39 Maintenance and Repair Cost Increase for Bookmobile – $10,000

The book mobile FRED is 15 years old and currently has a maintenance budget of $15,000, the recommendation is to not increase that budget to $25,000. In 2019 40 public service days were lost to unplanned maintenance in the first 6 months of 2019

Issue Number 2020-0313 Pg 76 Enforcement Time Adjustment for Parking Meters – $268,000

This would adjust parking meter operation times from 6pm to 9pm at night. The municipality compared itself to some other cities and found that 4 of 5 had their parking enforcement end at 6pm.

Issue Number 2020-0107 Pg 125 Addition of Service Staff For Parks For Hazardous Debris & Garbage Collection Enhancement – $170,736

To hire two staff to pick up needles, hazardous materials and other garbage in parks. From June 2018 to June 2019 over 4,000 needles were cleaned up and as student park staff can’t clean up sharps and other high risk materials permanent staff are needed to do this work. The map does show that a clear majority of these needles were found in the downtown core.

Some Comments:

  • There were 31 In-camera items in the non-recommended budget, this compares to 27 in 2019. The growth in camera items could point to the exercise of getting to 0% having to focus more and more on program staffing as being increasingly the only way to reach the goal as most excessive programs as already been cut.
  • The operational budget is a relatively boring affair this year. There is nothing “new or exciting” in the recommended budget but as I said on twitter you can clearly see the impacts of provincial cuts or holding funding lines; some investment in proven programs; and continuing some of the restraint or policies of previous councils.
  • The most interesting thing that isn’t included in the non-recommended is honestly the Park staff to clean up sharps in parks, and the missing “free bulk item pick-up”
  • Will be interesting to see what “open streets 2” is

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