MAPLETON – Township council has approved a 2023 budget that will raise the local tax rate by 3.89 per cent for the typical homeowner.
In dollar terms, the anticipated tax increase for the average residential homeowner will be $18.41 per $100,000 worth of assessment, states a report on the budget, which was approved at the Jan. 31 council meeting.
Earlier this month, council authorized staff to commence the capital procurement process for 2023 capital projects, based on a capital budget of $7,755,632.
The 10-year capital forecast calls for $80,716,258 in project spending.
“This forecast is only a reasonable estimate and is subject to change and will be reviewed each year as the budget is readopted,” the report states.
The 2023 budget projects revenues of $6,459,546, up from $6,298,680 in 2022, against expenditures of $15,919,485, an increase from $15,142,872 last year.
That leaves a levy of $9,459,939 to be raised through taxation, up 6.9%, from the budgeted levy of $8,844,192 in 2022.
The capital budget includes spending of:
- $2,650,992 on roads and sidewalks;
- $2,198,540 on water and wastewater;
- $1,764,500 on bridges and culverts;
- $171,300 on township facilities;
- $67,000 on parks; and
- $374,550 on other township assets, including $300,000 for an elevator and stairwell for the township administration centre to improve basement access.
The operating budget includes a 7% cost of living allowance (COLA) increase for township staff, a provision questioned at the meeting by councillor Michael Martin.
The increase follows an established township policy of increasing staff wages each year by an amount equal to the year-to-year Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase as of the end of August the previous year.
“I’m just curious if there’s any been any discussion or possible solutions proposed around mitigation of the 7%. wage increase,” said Martin.
CAO Manny Barron replied that senior staff had discussed the proposed increase at length.
“We are at the mercy of council and mercy of policies and we follow with open arms, the policy as it’s set out. Last year was zero. Several municipalities did more than zero,” Baron pointed out.
In a Feb. 2 email to the Advertiser, Baron clarified staff actually received a 0% COLA increase in 2021, based on the August 2020 CPI.
In 2022, staff received a COLA increase of 2.4%. Combined with a 1.21% increase in the 2020 budget, Mapleton staff have received an average COLA increase of 1.2% over the past three years.
“We are losing employees to surrounding municipalities and not just for a few dollars, but considerable tens and thousands of dollars,” Baron stated.
“So from from a CAO perspective, although I do appreciate the dollars that are being spent on staffing, I think we as an overall team of employees have demonstrated quite well, that we do indeed, value our ratepayers for presenting three years in a row of zero budget increases.”
Baron added, “Staff have worked extremely hard over the last three years. Staff continue to get things downloaded from the provincial level, from the GRCA, from various levels of government and we truthfully have not expanded staff; maybe a position here, there, but really no expansion.
“But the workload has definitely burdened our valued staff.”
Baron said he fears “if we don’t follow policy at this time … the disparity between our competition, the people that want our people, because we do hire the right people, versus what we can pay, is getting greater and greater.
“We talked about it, but feel that perhaps it doesn’t need a solution provided. As we followed the policy last year, we followed the policy this year. That being said, whatever council decides we would happily go with, but I think our staff deserve it,” Baron concluded.
“Your comments are all fair,” replied Martin.
However, he added, “It’s really got nothing to do with deserving or not deserving.
“I would suggest that even with a policy like we have, if in 2023 we do enter a recession and we do go into the negative, we’re not going to do wage cuts … despite what the policy would suggest.”
Martin continued, “I understand the policy, but I also think there’s limitations to policy and we’ve kind of bandied it around ad nauseam …
“I didn’t think when this policy was created, that we would ever hold to a negative, you know, in a recession, or that we were ever contemplating a 7% (increase).”
Martin noted other municipalities have implemented “mitigation strategies,” such as shifting some of the increase to future years when the CPI might be lower.
“I think there are lots of different options. It just, for me, 7% is no reflection on the people we have,” Martin said.
“I know it can be interpreted that way – simply even with this conversation coming up – but it’s more of, it’s a big number.”
“I agree with councillor Martin, that seven sounds like a lot,” said councillor Marlene Ottens.
“But when it was zero for a couple of years, it seems like we’re just making up for lost time. So I’m okay with it.”
A resolution to approve the budget was approved, with only Martin opposed.