City Council sharpened their pencils and when the shavings were cleared, local taxpayers will pay a tax levy of 4.84 per cent in 2024.
The portion of the budget under direct control of the City will see an increase of 1.45 per cent. Local and levy boards account for 3.39 per cent. Council approved its capital and operating budget for next year during a five-hour meeting Monday night.
Sault Mayor Matthew Shoemaker was pleased. The preliminary ’24 budget carried a levy of 7.14 per cent, a figure he told council weeks ago was unacceptable. “I was happy to get below five per cent, said Shoemaker. “A final number that began with a four per cent starting point was where my mind wanted
to be. There were a few things as we went through the night that I voted against that ultimately made their way into the budget, or that made their way out for the budget but I think we landed in a spot that everybody could accept and be comfortable with.”
Sault Ste. Marie Police Services budget will grow by roughly $1.6 million in 2024 SSMPS is expanding the force hiring 16 officers and a supervisor for its new downtown division. The new platoon will be implemented over four years instead of three, and that, along with an administrative salary correction reduced their bottom line on the 2024 budget by $1.8 million.
The City’s Budget 2024 Community Engagement project revealed drew 80 participants and 4,685 responses.
Police service ranked second behind only roads and sidewalks among respondents as the service they deemed most important. Crime and criminality and cost of living topped the list of concerns among
“You’re not always going to be able to satisfy the needs of every resident, said Shoemaker. “There are some instances where the decisions of council may go against the popular will, if you can call it that. In this case, because the preliminary (police) budget came in higher and was scaled back quite significantly…it took the edge off of the increase and council was comfortable enough with it to pass it.”
A motion to slice the police budget by an additional 1.33 per cent was defeated. “That’s where council essentially drew its line and saying we aren’t comfortable going down that much,” said Shoemaker. “We are comfortable going down as much as the police had said they could go down to provide adequate and effective policing in the community.”
Council approved a suggestion from Chief Administrative Officer Malcolm White to tap a Tax Stabilization Reserve for $800,000 to offset the increase in the police services budget.
Other Levy and Local Board increases for 2024 include:
Algoma Public Health, $72,842 District of Sault Ste. Marie Social Services Administrative Board,
On the other side of the ledger, the Sault Ste. Marie Region Conservation Authority reduced it’s ask by $27,500.
The City’s operating budget saw a number of changes, additions and deletions. Additions included:
A fire pumper, $82,000 An additional $50,000 for physician recruitment.
Six summer students, $69,275 a full-time By-law Officer and Supervisor of Inspections, $59,918
Additional security for the Library, $36,000 Make Transit’s Adventure Bus Program permanent, $8,000
Maintenance to graffitied or damaged public art, $8,000 A number of items will continue with no impact to the levy, include: John Rhodes roof replacement , Fire NG-911 Computer-aided dispatch, Part-time food and beverage , Conversion of food and beverage from part-time to full-time Deletions and budget reductions included:
Crime Stoppers grant, $25,000
Reduce Algoma University grant, $40,00
Reduction in capital inflationary adjustment, $100,000
Phase-in of new Public Works equipment, $183,000
Phase-out one-half of 2023 fuel tax stabilization, $200,000
Reduction in fuel increase by 15 per cent, $20,259
Reduction in utility increase by 15 per cent, $29,725
Funding for the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre (SSMIC) was removed from the 2024 budget and placed under the Economic Development Fund. SSMIC funding was pegged at $277,890.
Shoemaker told council he thought SSMIC’s status and funding warranted a full staff report and shouldn’t be included as a budget matter. But in a 6-5 vote, a motion carried to move the non-profit organization
under the EDF umbrella.
“I didn’t necessarily oppose the reviewing funding model,” said Shoemaker, “I did oppose discussing it as a budgetary discussion. I think we ought to have gotten a full staff report as we did, for example ,with
staff parking. But council made its decision and decided to remove it from the budget for 2024. We’ll have to see if that stands in 2025 or if it gets added back in.”
Council also debated a motion from Ward 3 Councillor Ron Zagordo that city staff pay $1 per day for parking. Ward 4 Coun. Marchy Bruni asked if the measure would apply to the Ron A. Irwin Civic Centre lot or all City-owned properties. That sparked the discussion with council ultimately deciding to a staff report was necessary before a proper decision could be made.
A motion by Ward 4 Coun. Stephan Kinach that Council freeze the wages of the Mayor, council and all non-union employees for 2024 did not find a seconder.