By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
Oshawa has eliminated a level of public wrangling from its budget system.
Instead of having Oshawa’s community agencies – such as the Robert McLaughlin Gallery (RMG) or Oshawa Senior Citizens Centres (OSCC) – present to council with their requests for a given year, these now go before committee after meeting with staff to discuss their budgets beforehand.
According to Councillor Nancy Diamond, the system helps to streamline the process and allow the agencies to feel more comfortable when presenting their budgets.
“It’s making this work smoothly,” she said during the Jan. 21 finance committee meeting.
And it seems to work.
Of Oshawa’s five external organizations – which along with the RMG and OSCC include the Oshawa Historical Society, the Oshawa Public Libraries (OPL) and Parkwood – each received, more or less, the funds they had requested.
While each of the agencies saw small increases to their requested budget requests from the city, most of the increases were due to annual salary increases and contractual obligations.
In total, more than $11 million was doled out by the committee, which is set for final approval by council on Friday, Jan. 29. This marks a 1.5 per cent increase over 2015, or $171,000.
The $11-plus million also include over $8 million for the OPL. as well as $33,700 in funds for the city’s trio of advisory committees for accessibility, environment and Heritage Oshawa.
The largest increase came from the Oshawa Historical Society, which requested a 5.6 per cent jump, or $21,400 more than 2015. The ask was approved by committee, totalling $402,550.
The RMG was approved for a three per cent increase totalling $771,900, OPL a 2.4 per cent increase to $8.66 million with the increase going mainly toward salaries and benefit expenses, along with utilities and increased security costs.
The OSCC received an additional $34,100 for 2016, or a 2.2 per cent increase, bringing the city’s contribution up to $1.543 million.
The Parkwood Foundation received $325,000 toward its operating budget, the same amount approved in 2015. As well, a $150,000 grant was approved for 2016, half of which was approved in the 2015 budget but not released. The capital grants are to be put toward the organizations greenhouse restoration project.
The General Motors Centre also presented its budget for 2016 at the Jan. 21 meeting. The city is obligated under its contract with the facility to cover its operating deficit, which came in at approximately $397,000, or a 4.1 per cent decrease – equal to $17,000 – from 2015.
In addition to the $100,000 capital allocation, the city is responsible for the outstanding debt on the centre, which sits at $33.3 million. Principal and interest payments in 2016 will total $3.5 million.