Manitoulin Planning Board approves slight increase in annual budget

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GORE BAY – Municipalities will see a small increase in the 2021 Manitoulin Planning Board (MPB) budget.

“Everyone should have received a copy of a draft budget on March 26,” said Jake Diebolt, GIS technician/co-ordinator of MPB at a regular board meeting last week. “We’re looking at a very small increase in the municipal requisitions this year, with a slightly-less-than $2,000 increase overall.”

Mr. Diebolt explained that “the severance fee projections show an increase this year from $33,000 to $47,000, noting that a good portion of this is the proposed subdivision being planned in Sheguiandah. “So, based on projections, we have already done pretty good in terms of application fees,” said Mr. Diebolt.
On the budget expenditures for 2021, Mr. Diebolt noted, “in terms of expenditures, (the budget) includes a salary increase overall (for the two MPB employees) $10,000 higher than in 2020. This is on account of a proposed two percent salary increase and funds to hire a summer student or part-time administrative assistant. However, on the latter, “the big elephant in the room is the pandemic restrictions; we won’t be able to hire someone until the restrictions have been loosnsed enough to hire someone.”  

The MPB has an increase in rent of office space of two percent per year in the Town of Gore Bay building. There has also been a projected increase in the budget in terms of supplies and computer costs.

“The other change I have put in the budget is a cost of $1,000 for legal fees,” said Mr. Diebolt. “We have questions that arise, that we don’t have the answers for, or things go to an appeal that we need legal assistance on. If we could have a certain amount of money available in the budget for this type of thing coming up.” 

It was pointed out that Mr. Diebolt and MPB chair Richard Stephens, along with board members Ian Anderson and Ken Noland, formed the budget committee. 

“We reviewed the budget in detail,” said Mr. Stephens. “The good part is that if you look at the bottom line, both revenues and expenses, it was basically a balanced budget. Other expenditures are pretty well in tune with last year’s budget. Our recommendation was to accept the 2021 budget.” 

Board member Rob Brown questioned whether the MPB has put legal fees in its budget in the past.

Mr. Diebolt pointed out the last time the MPB needed legal advice was in 2017, when it spent funding for legal questions, when the town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands was granted its own planning authority. Seeking legal assistance, “the legal fees got expensive quickly,” he said. 

Tim Mackinlay said, “building on Rob’s statement, $1,000 can be used in two or three hours of consultation, so I’m wondering if we are on the low side of what we put in the budget for legal fees.”

Mr. Diebolt explained that normally, the MPB hasn’t had legal fees in its budget, “we just wanted a small amount being put in the budget for this year in case we seek legal advice.” 

“The only time we’ve really needed this type of fund was in 2017 due to unusual circumstances,” said Mr. Stephens. 

The board approved the budget, as well as the financial statements for 2020.