Puslinch council okays 18.4% tax increase; overall impact is 5.1%

Puslinch council has approved an 18.4% increase in township taxes.

On May 21 councillors vot­ed unanimously to pass the township’s tax rate bylaw, as well as the 2008 budget, which includes $7,333,262 in total expenditures and $5,083,050 in total revenue.

The actual amount to be raised by taxes this year is up by 20% (from $1.87-million to just over $2.25-million), but the impact on residents will be lessened by a 1.6% increase in assessment growth this year.

That means the average homeowner with a residence assessed at $332,000 will pay $676 in township taxes and $4,071 in total taxes this year. Those figures are up from $571 and $3,872 respectively last year.

The county tax rate is up 3.9% this year and the education portion is unchanged from 2007, resulting in an overall in­crease of 5.1% for taxpayers in Puslinch Township.

When asked about the 18.4% increase in township taxes, Mayor Brad Whitcombe said because the township’s portion of the overall tax bill is so small – less than 20% – “it doesn’t take much” to get into double digit increases locally.

“Zero increase would be nice, but those days have long since vanished,” Whitcombe said. He noted that when something is cut from a budget, the municipality usually saves just for that year and is often “be­hind the eight ball” in the future because of it.

He said he prefers a “mod­est”  overall increase for taxpayers, which at 5.1%, allows the township and county to meet various challenges, including:

– a tough winter;

– skyrocketing oil prices,;

– ever-increasing costs combined with decreased support from the provincial and federal governments;

– the impacts of increasing traffic in Puslinch; and

– looking after the Mill Creek and other local environmental features.

“We’re finding a balance,” Whitcombe said. “I know Pus­linch is a very healthy community.”

Councillor Matthew Bul­mer pointed out at a previous meeting that this year’s budget would actually be considerably lower than the 2007 budget ($5.15-million) were it not for the Carroll Pond project.

Bulmer said that is a testament to the hard work of township staff and dedication to keeping expenditures low.

Expected costs for work on the Carroll Pond, which Whit­combe called “a remarkable engineering and infrastructure project,” total $3-million or 41% of the entire 2008 budget.

“It’s been an uphill battle, really since 1980,” Whitcombe said, adding it will be nice to address the drainage problems at the Carroll Pond for the long term.

The project, $2-million of which will be financed by the county and local businesses, involves installing a three-foot concrete drain pipe approximately 40 feet underground that will run underneath McLean Roa­d and direct water into a pond on the nearby property of CBM Aggregates.

“It’s the largest engineering project ever in Puslinch,” Whitcombe said, noting the township will borrow its $1-million share through the county.

Other expenditures in the budget include $700,000 for road work, most of which is for the reconstruction of Con­cession 4; and $46,000 for breathing apparatus, radios, and bunker gear for the fire department.