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City expects $125,000 surplus

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Brockville is headed toward a year-end surplus of nearly $125,000, the most recent figures show.

As of October 31, city officials were projecting an operating budget surplus of $124,964, according to a report from the finance department.

The figure is down slightly from the $144,894 projection in the spring.

While the projected surplus has shrunk, Mayor David Henderson said staff has assured council it will not disappear entirely.

“The expectation is that (at the end of the year) we're still on the good side,” said Henderson.

“Everything is in the right place.”

Councillors received the report Wednesday at a finance, administration and operations committee meeting at which they also recommended taking the first step toward reinstating development charges.

One of the main factors behind the projected surplus is a $94,038 spike in the corporate finance area, driven in large part by higher-than-expected supplementary taxes and penalties on overdue taxes.

While many consider the economic recovery to be uncertain, increased construction activity is leading to an expected surplus of $38,500 in building permit fees.

The projected police deficit has been reduced by $54,000 through cuts in enforcement training and projected legal fees.

On the negative side, the Brockville Arts Centre has seen a drop in ticket sales for city-sponsored shows.

Staff blamed the drop on more competition,creating a projected shortfall of $10,000.

At the same time, the city no longer expects to draw revenue from auditorium rentals and seat surcharges to the extent it had budgeted, because of lower attendance and unexpected fee waivers. The result is that a planned $15,000 surplus will no longer happen.

The city ended 2011 with an operating surplus of $248,037.

The separately-accounted sewer budget is projecting a surplus of its own of $140,000, a boost caused in part by above-average water consumption.

The water rate administration budget is also projecting a $59,572 surplus, largely the result of that higher-than-average water use.

While the surplus is good news, Henderson said it also suggests the city can budget more precisely.

“The goal is not to plan for a huge surplus, because it suggests you're overly cautious on your budgeting.”

But if the city does end the year with a surplus, it will help in efforts to boost the fiscal policy reserve fund, from which council has often drawn to mitigate tax increases, said Henderson.

Finance committee members also agreed Wednesday to hire Hemson Consulting Ltd. for $25,000 to do a development charges background study, the first step in reinstating the charges to developers, which are meant to pay for the increased service costs of new developments.

If the full council backs the recommendation next week, it would move toward ending a development charges holiday in place since June 2009.

Developers, including local builder Michael Veenstra, who addressed the committee on Wednesday, have urged the city not to return to development charges.

Supporters, including Henderson, argue the charges are a needed source of revenue from which other area municipalities continue to benefit.

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