Facing a number of challenges on a variety of fronts — from staffing and legal expenses to technological upgrades — Oro-Medonte Township finished the first half of 2023 more than $650,000 under budget, according to the latest figures.
In her financial report to township council for quarters one and two, chief financial officer Nelly Morrow offered an equal measure of optimism and caution about the numbers.
“From an operating and capital perspective, the township is managing within the approved budget,” she said in her report. “Departments have identified some positive trends, challenges and concerns.”
High among the concerns are staffing and legal expenses, followed by technology upgrades.
Over the last few years, according to the report, Oro-Medonte has experienced “unprecedented challenges” in the workplace, including the time it takes to recruit new staff, a transitional workforce and economic uncertainty.
As older employees opt for retirement and younger workers search out new, better-paying positions in other locations, Oro-Medonte, like many other employers, is being forced to re-evaluate its compensation and benefits package, which impacts the township’s bottom line.
Morrow noted that it takes between seven and nine weeks to on-board a new employee after receiving their application. During that time, while the empty position delivers no value to residents, other employees have to cover that role, effectively eroding their value at the same time.
“The township continues to experience labour shortages and staff gaping around the various recruiting positions,” Morrow said in the report.
Because of this, salaries and benefits at the township are under budget by $622,000.
At the same time, though, legal expenses are ballooning.
The municipality’s ongoing legal battles regarding Zone 1 water, short-term rentals and cannabis cost the township $609,000, exceeding its first-half budget of $429,000 by $180,000. Reserves of $200,000 were included in the 2023 operating budget to cover deficits in legal expenses.
“Enforcing bylaws and dispute resolution continues to challenge the township,” Morrow said in her report. “Wherever possible, actions and alternative decisions to reduce costly legal expenses are made, although in many cases third-party actions are not under the township's control, for example, lengthy (Ontario Land Tribunal) appeals.”
Oro-Medonte must also address the growing demand for e-services, she said.
“Advancing its digital technology infrastructure comes with common challenges that often develop during complex implementations,” Morrow said in reference to the township’s e-strategy.
She noted that while new technology can improve productivity and efficiency, it comes with its own challenges — new methods, procedures and training — that are time-consuming and often complex.
On the positive side of the ledger, though, Oro-Medonte brought in an unexpected $184,000 through building permit fees on a large industrial build ($97,000) and bulk water sales related to a private well pump failure ($87,000).