I wanted to take a moment to share my thoughts on the budget for 2021. This budget, the third I have been a part of, represents a 1% reduction in taxes for the residents of Brandon, and still stands out as the budget I’m probably most proud of.
Our community has suffered a great deal, as have so many others in weathering the COVID-19 pandemic. This weighed heavily on council’s mind as we entered budget deliberations this weekend, and was a hallmark of our thought process in the months leading up to crafting this financial plan for our residents. From my vantage point, this budget delivers relief, and a great deal for residents to be excited about, a true win-win scenario.
When we get into the weeds of the budget, I’m proud to say as part of this document I did not present a single reduction in investment for our residents, and of the numbers of improvements I had the honour to present, only one was defeated (adding to Sunday bus hours).
With the support of my fellow members of council, I was honoured to introduce a doubling of backlane dust control measures, investments in cultural entities like Brandon’s three museums, investments in the work of the Brandon Bear Clan, an additional $75 000 towards upgrades and repairs to our sidewalk infrastructure, and along with Councillor Berry we were able to introduce a historic level of funding for cost sharing on installation of residential backwater valve and sump pit installation (retroactive to June 1, to cover shared costs incurred by residents as a result of the late June storm).
Further to this, globally council approved the passage of backlane improvements, lead water pipes mitigation, a historic level of investment in addressing drainage concerns, investments in recreational ammenities, infrastructure, streets and roads, our protective services, staff initiatives, community centres, and much more.
Probably the greatest highlight of the day was council allocating the necessary funding to finally move forward through debenture commitment with the phased construction of an outdoor field house and multi-sport complex. This project, which will eventually be a roughly 12-million dollar investment, will begin construction this summer along Veterans Way in our city.
Lastly, how we came to the savings. The city, like so many cities throughout the country were severely impacted by the pandemic. When Covid-19 first was recognized in our city, administration, in consultation with council implemented a plethora of cost saving measures to insulate the corporation from a number of risk factors due to the pandemic. Further, council chose to use a small portion of a federal program to provide relief to our residents and businesses through tax savings. There is still a great deal of that amount left in reserve to help us as the pandemic wears on. It is hoped we can be in a good position to utilize the remaining funds for restart initiatives when the time is right to boost our local economy, and return to event hosting that drives that economy.
I’m tremendously proud of the various initiatives introduced by my fellow council members as part of this budget, and further am really impressed and proud of our administration for their work on this budget. A budget is a vehicle of both bodies, and this year I think it compliments the work of those two entities working together instep for the benefit of our residents.
As always, if anyone has any questions at all, I welcome hearing them. This budget is a document reflective of our community, and I hope it serves our community well.
Thanks so much, I look forward to the year ahead.