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Total taxes to rise by $84 on average Minto residence

by Patrick Raftis

MINTO - The average residential taxpayer here will pay an additional $84 in 2019.

Minto council passed the town’s 2019 budget with an overall tax increase of 2.8% for an average residential property assessed at $233,000.

The estimate of an $84 increase in local taxes includes Wellington County and provincial education taxes. It assumes there will be no changes to tax policies set by the county and that education tax rates follow past trends, the town states in a press release issued following council’s approval of the budget on April 2.

Minto treasurer Gordon Duff said about $48 of the $84 increase can be attributed to Town of Minto spending.

With total spending of $6,275,893, the budget calls for a total levy requirement (the amount to be raised through taxes) of $5,286,976, an increase of $339,569 or just under 7% from the budgeted 2018 levy of $4,947,407.

Minto Mayor George Bridge stated, “The 2019 budget still moves Minto forward with numerous capital projects, but keeps tax increases manageable for our residents.”

Finance chair David Turton said, “This budget was very difficult to put together this year. There were many unknown grant and funding opportunities,  making it hard to put together a capital funding plan. Our staff has worked hard on this budget and we appreciate them very much for their effort.”

Minto’s 2019 tax-supported operating budget (excluding water and sewer operations) includes a net transfer of $443,000 to reserves. The budget includes a net transfer to capital reserves of $1,725,000 to fund the $5.5-million capital plan.

Capital expenditure highlights include the final payments on a new fire pumper, installation of four electric vehicle charging stations, replacement of public works service and plow trucks.

Other capital projects include:

- flood damage restoration work on the Maitland River shoreline;

- continuation of upgrades on the 12th Line, final paving of a section of Ann Street in Clifford;

- servicing for residential development in Clifford; an expansion of the cremation garden in the Harriston Cemetery;

- modernization work on the SCADA system for water and wastewater;

- continued inflow and infiltration reduction in Harriston;

- watermains on George Street North to improve water quality in that neighbourhood;

- ball park upgrades;

- replacement work on the deck surrounding the railway museum and painting part of the pedestrian railway bridge;

- renovations at the Palmerston Lions Den building (former CNRA clubhouse); and

- a replacement pick-up truck in the building department and road extensions and service installations in the Palmerston Industrial Park.

One proposed capital project that won’t go ahead is the largest item in the draft budget: the reconstruction of the Minto-Normanby Townline. The planned $2.3-million project was to be split with West Grey and funded primarily with provincial grant money. Treasurer Gordon Duff reported the project was not approved for funding under the Ontario Infrastructure Fund and the program has been discontinued by the province.

“In discussions with the Municipality of West Grey, our prospective partner in this project, we have decided not to re-apply for this project as the insufficient health and safety concerns are not likely to be deemed critical in other grant funding opportunities at this time,” Duff stated in a written report.

A new grant program, Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program, was recently announced and Duff said a $1 million “placeholder” has been inserted into the budget in the event funds can be accessed through this program.

“This program is only for eligible road and bridges projects. Staff will bring forward alternatives and seek council direction on a priority project under this program,” Duff explained.

“In order not to further delay the passing of the 2019 budget, a $1 million placeholder project has been included. This program offers 50% federal funding, 33.33% provincial funding with the remaining amount of 16.67% to be funded by the municipality.”

Because the money that was originally designated for the Townline, and now the placeholder project, was slated to be drawn from reserves, it won’t impact taxation if no project, or a less-expensive one, goes forward, Duff explained.

The balance of reserves and reserve funds will be approximately $10.4 million at the end of 2019.  Municipal expenditures are partially funded by an Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) Grant of $1,604,000. User fees and internal reserve funds cover the balance.  

Duff told council the OMPF allocation “was only down $26,000” from the 2018 grant and “we were able to cover that through bringing in reserves.”

Concerns earlier this spring about major cuts to the OMPF program, part of a spending review by the province, left Minto, like other municipalities, uncertain of the program’s impact on its budget.

“Some of the uncertainty is clear now,” said Duff.

Councillor Judy Dirksen asked how Minto’s $591,214 portion of one-time provincial cash from a recently announced $200-million fund to help small and rural municipalities modernize service delivery would impact the budget.

Duff said it won’t be factored in at this time.

“Basically that’s not in this budget. We received it on Friday and parked it,” Duff explained.

“For the purposes of this budget, it’s found money, it’s not there.”

Duff said staff will look for ways to achieve efficiencies.

Though he noted the funding announcement didn’t contain strict guidelines or reporting requirements, he said using it for a single project would not likely be encouraged.

“There’s no great rush to do it so we’re going to take our time,” said Duff.

Mayor George Bridge said although there’s “no strings attached,” with the money, Association of Municipalities of Ontario officials he’s talked to are “getting a feeling from the government they want to see success stories.”

Minto’s  budget contains no new borrowing in 2019 and total external debt will fall from $8,688,000 to $7,518,000.

“Indications are there will be fewer infrastructure grants available in the next few years, so future capital spending will be difficult to sustain at $5 million annually,” the town states in the press release.

“The town will continue to push for sustainable funding and a comprehensive infrastructure program from the federal and provincial governments.”

In the release, the town notes Minto is committed to full cost recovery for water and wastewater systems, which are entirely user pay. Funding for water and sewer projects, including debt-servicing, is paid by user charges.

An external accreditation will take place in the fall under the new and stricter Drinking Water Quality Regulations, the release states.  

The town also noted the Tax Relief Program for Low Income Seniors and Persons with Disabilities administered by the County of Wellington continues for 2019.

Applications by qualifying individuals may be sent to the municipal office after the final property tax bills are issued in early September. Applications are due by Nov. 1.  

Current forms and more information can be obtained by contacting the Minto municipal office.

April 10, 2019

 
 

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