Guelph-Eramosa passes budget with 7.64% municipal tax levy increase

Guelph-Eramosa Township council passed a budget with a 7.64% increase in the township tax levy.

The township is raising just over $6.1 million through property tax, up $434,756 from last year’s $5.7 million.

At a Feb. 29 special meeting of council, councillor David Wolk was in opposition to passing the 2016 budget.

“I just want to register the concern I have … to say that I am very disappointed with this budget; that I think it reflects neither the quality of input nor stewardship that this council is capable of delivering,” Wolk said at the meeting.

“I think it’s time we all acknowledge that escaping the responsibilities of tomorrow by evading them today is totally unacceptable.”

“One of the things we’re facing as you are well aware is the growing infrastructure deficit across the board,” Mayor Chris White explained.  

“We, for example, have four bridges that are coming due in the next four years worth about two and a half million dollars. We’re very hardpressed to make that up with the other roads and so forth so we’re working diligently to try to keep operating budgets and everything else in line.”

White said a public concern   is the lack of identified township savings.

“We have a list of the services we provide but we’ve never provided a list of the efficiencies we’ve brought in, changes we’ve made and some of the things we’ve done,” he said. “So we’ll be doing that going forward.”

For every $100,000 of property assessment, taxpayers can expect:

– a 6.33%, or $16.55 increase in local municipal taxes, including a 4.35% general tax increase and 1.98% for a new dedicated infrastructure levy;

– a 2.5% or $15.73, increase in Wellington County taxes;

– no increase in education taxes; and

– an overall tax bill increase of about 3%, or $32.28, when county and education taxes are included.

White explained that the township will be receiving another $115,000 a year for four years from the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (OCIF) in light of the 2016 Ontario budget.

The municipality is also hoping for an expansion of the gas tax but won’t know until the federal budget is tabled.

“These federal and provincial programs are absolutely critical if we’re to maintain our infrastructure,” White said.

“We’re trying to be as responsible as we can and we’re hoping that these additional funds will assist us.”

On March 1 Wolk clarified why he opposed the budget.

He said one of his concerns about the 2016 budget is salaries, wages and benefits.

“That’s our single largest expense,” he said. “That represents $4.4 million a year.”

He said he sees the township with two options to find more funds – a big increase in taxes or a reduction in total salaries, wages and benefits.

“We need to have a much better and much closer look at how the money is being spent, what are we asking people to do, are we doing it in the most effective and efficient way,” Wolk said.

Budget highlights

Some of the highlights of the $21.7-million 2016 budget include:

– fire department, $450,000  for a replacement tanker truck;

– public works, $180,000 for Brucedale covered storage; $290,000 for Woolwich/Pilkington Townline road resurfacing; $230,000 for a sidewalk on Wellington Road 27; $990,000 for Mill Road reconstruction; $230,000 for Mill Road bridge rehabilitation; and $330,000 for Rockwood street light upgrades;

– water and wastewater,  $1.1 million for a new pumphouse and well at 154 Milne Place;

– parks and recreation,  $742,000 for Rockmosa Park development; and $350,000 for a skate board park at Rockmosa Park.