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County proposes budget with 2.5 per cent increase in taxes

by Patrick Raftis

ABOYNE - Wellington County is proposing a 2018 budget with a 2.5 per cent increase in the county portion of property taxes.

The increase is slightly lower than the 2017 increase of 2.9% and down from the 2.8% projected in the county’s 10-year plan.

The plan projects increases ranging from 2.8 to 5.2% between 2019 and 2027.

In a presentation to county councillors at the Wellington County Museum and Archives on Jan. 9, treasurer Ken DeHart explained assessment growth in the county finalized at 1.64%,  0.39% higher than estimated in November, resulting in a direct reduction of 0.39% in the projected levy.

DeHart noted 2018 represents the first year county staff have prepared a fully-integrated operating and capital 10-year plan.

“Many municipalities up to this point have started to move toward a 10-year capital plan, but very few are doing a 10-year operating forecast as well” DeHart explained.

“I would say there’s only a handful across the province so we’re in good company and the reason we’re doing this … essentially, it’s viewed as a positive by the credit rating companies and we want to put upwards pressure on our rating. Only triple A municipalities are doing this and that’s where we want to head.”

Wellington County maintained its AA+ rating in the most recent Standard and Poors global ratings released last fall. Standard and Poor’s has rated the county at AA+ since 2014.

Excluding the assessment growth, DeHart said the county’s total tax levy will increase by 4%, resulting in a tax impact of 2.5 per cent in 2018.

The projected levy requirement in the draft budget is $95,069,100, up 4% from $91,427,400 in 2017.

Factoring in assessment growth, the projected tax impact of 2.5% would be equal to about $15 per $100,000 worth of assessment per individual taxpayer.

In his presentation, DeHart pointed out nearly 75%of the levy increase can be explained by increases to roads winter control costs, ambulance service enhancements and reductions in Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) contributions.

Proposed 2018 expenditures include an estimated 2018 operating budget of $213.6 million and a $33.7-million capital budget.

The 10-year plan projects a $343.2 million capital investment over the next 10 years.

Ten-year capital plan highlights include completion of the Drayton roads garage in 2018 and the replacement of garages in Arthur, Erin/Brucedale and Harriston throughout the forecasted time period, continued investment in county-owned social and affordable housing units and closure of phase I and preparation for phase II of the Riversdale landfill site development.

On the revenue side, the county’s share of the OMPF funding falls under $1.8 million in 2018, down by about 15% from last year.

The county staff compliment is expected to rise by 5.9 full-time equivalent positions, at a cost of about $330,000.

However DeHart pointed out most of the increase represents additional hours or part-time workers in some departments or funded positions, such as a housing community support worker. The position is fully-funded by the province.

One unfunded, full-time staff addition was listed in the presentation documents as the economic development project manager.

“What is this position supposed to do and why does it need to be a management position?” asked councillor Gregg Davidson.  

Director of economic development Jana Burns explained the position is “not a managerial position, as she’s not actually supervising anyone.”

“The title is senior economic development officer,” said Burns, noting the position would involve managing certain projects and is necessary due to additional workload in the department.

“Not only is our scope bigger … we’re just doing more in terms of projects as well and we need staff to keep the pace going,” Burns stated.

Centre Wellington Mayor Kelly Linton pointed out the position is required “because the county is moving more strongly into community improvement planning and we’re getting into a different kind of business and Jana has to spend more of her time on that side of the business … What was critical for me was, from my perspective, we’re getting into new business and economic development business,” Linton said. “It made a lot of sense to me.”

Councillor Doug Breen pointed out economic development shouldn’t be viewed only in terms of expenses, as development leads to increased commercial and industrial assessment.

“If you start looking at some of the big fish we’re trying to land right now ... we land one significant fish and that salary is paid 20 times over,” said Breen.

“You look at the work that committee’s doing and that department is doing and we really don’t need more than one or two big successes every few years to fund the entire operation.”

Budget reviews will be held at county committee and board meetings over the next two weeks, with the administration, finance and human resources committee (AFHR) review scheduled for Jan. 16.

AFHR recommendations are expected to be considered by Wellington County council at the Jan. 25 meeting.

 

January 12, 2018

 
 

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