Letters to the Editor

Letter to the editor: PenMet’s budget ‘cuts’ if the levy does not pass

Posted on October 30th, 2023 By: Craig McLaughlin

PenMet is saying that if the levy lid lift doesn’t pass, it will have to make “cuts” to their 2024 budget.  Is that true?  Let’s take a closer look while keeping in mind that PenMet’s 2024 tax levy receipts will be about the same in 2024 as they are this year.

Without the levy lid lift, PenMet is predicting that it will have to “cut” its expenses and capital projects by $2.5 million (information is taken directly from PenMet’s draft 2024 Budget and Ally (Bujacich)’s comments when presenting it to the Board).  Here are the “cuts”:

  1. General Fund expenses by $486,000
  2. Recreation Enterprise Fund (public events) by $222,000
  3. Capital projects by $1.8M

General Fund Expenses:

  1. Eliminate 1 Procurement Specialist for $106,000 (another six figure salary!). The truth:  This is a new position for 2024 so it’s not a “cut” from PenMet’s 2023 spending.
  2. Eliminate the following to get to $380,000:
    1. 2 Grounds Specialists. The truth:  These are both new positions for 2024 so, again, this is not a “cut” from 2023 expenses.
    2. Less maintenance supplies and less contracted maintenance services. No detail provided here, but to get to $380,000 this has to be a big number.  The truth:  This may or may not eliminate new for 2024 expenses—no detail provided.
    3. Reduce the DeMolay park attendant to weekends only (hmm…this expense is directly related to the termination of the Park Host Program that’s costing PenMet tens of thousands of dollars). The truth:  This would be a “cut,” but a minor one at best when you’re looking for $2.5M in savings.
    4. Reduce site improvements (picnic tables, trash cans, and benches). The truth:  How much of the $2.5M is saved by this reduction?
    5. Reduce invasive weed control. The truth:  Again, how much of the $2.5M does this save?

Are any of these “cuts” actually necessary?  The answer may surprise you–see the “Necessary?” heading below.

Recreation Enterprise Fund:

  1. Reduce the Recreation Enterprise Fund by $222,000:
    1. Reduce community events. The truth: Is this eliminating new programs starting in 2024 or an actual reduction in 2023 events?  No detail provided.  If the former, it’s not a “cut” and if the latter, see “Necessary?” below.
    2. Increase program fees (How does this save money????)
    3. Reduce summer camps. The truth: Is this eliminating new programs starting in 2024 or an actual reduction in 2023 events? No detail provided. If the former, it’s not a “cut.”  If it’s the latter, see “Necessary?” below.

Capital Projects:

  1. Reduce money going to capital projects by $1.8M (remember this number!!!)

According to PenMet, if the levy lid lift is defeated, PenMet will have to cut the following items from its 2024 Capital Budget to save an additional $1.8M (the General Fund Expenses and the Recreation Enterprise Fund providing $708,000 in misnamed “cuts”):

Description 2024 Budgeted Amount Savings
Peninsula Gardens $1,000,000 $1,000,000
Narrows Beach $555,000 $555,000
Wollochet Estuary $150,000 $150,000
McCormick Forest $500,000 $500,000
Cedrona Bay $150,000 $150,000
Total Savings $2,355,000


PenMet needs $1,800,000 in savings in capital projects so it’s “cutting” $2,355,000?  If PenMet needs to cut $2.5M in total, then it only needs to cut $145,000 and not the $486,000 with the General Fund and Recreation Enterprise Fund “cuts” described above.  Does this make any sense?  Just not hiring the highly paid Procurement Specialist (and PenMet has gotten along fine without one for 19 years!) cuts the deficit needed to a mere $39,000.  To me, that sounds like a very manageable number.

What Is The $2.5M?

And where does the $2.5M budget “cut” number come from?  That’s the additional property tax levy receipts PenMet expects to get just in 2024 from property tax levies if the levy lid lift is passed (remember the almost 30% increase?).  The necessary operational cuts to PenMet’s 2023 programs and services is virtually non-existent.  The same income in 2024 as in 2023 and the same programs, services, and staffing in 2024 that PenMet has in 2023.

Ask yourself this question:  Since Peninsula Gardens and the Cedrona Bay properties have been owned by PenMet for years, and it’s done absolutely nothing with either one, why, in 2024, is PenMet suddenly adding over $1M to its Capital budget for these two properties?  Why now?  Is it so PenMet will have something to show the voters that is truly a “cut” in 2024?  The failure to get $2.5M means, at worst, that some capital projects will be delayed … PenMet must live within its means.  PenMet has a history of adding projects to its Capital Budget with no real intention of doing those projects anytime soon.  They just carry them over to a future year or drop them somewhere along the way.  Peninsula Gardens is a great example.  They’ve owned that property for years so why is the project so critical for 2024?

PenMet’s claims of cuts: They are non-existent!

Craig McLaughlin

Fox Island

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