Puslinch hopes to reduce tax increase from 5.75 to 0.93%

ABERFOYLE – After presenting a draft budget on Nov. 25 showing a tax increase of 5.75%, Puslinch Township staff has whittled that down to a 0.93% increase for single family homes, farms, commercial and industrial properties in the municipality.

When blended with assumptions from Wellington County and the province on education taxes, the proposed budget indicates a 1.74% increase on single family homes and farmland property, a decrease of 0.95% for small retail/commercial and a decrease of 10.75% on industrial properties.

Council was presented with the updated draft budget on Jan. 13, and held a public meeting on Jan. 20 to receive questions and feedback from constituents.

Council had previously decided to reduce the amount for community grants to reduce a tax increase, and the township has learned it will receive an additional $38,000 from the province in Safe Restart funding.

This funding will help offset lost revenue from parks and recreation as a result of facility closures due to the pandemic.

Also since the last budget meeting, the township has learned that assessment growth has been pegged at 1.5%, which helps increase revenue and decrease the impact on taxpayers.

There was also an additional equivalent of 1% tax levy dedicated to the Gravel Roads Improvement reserve.

Only two callers dialed in to the public meeting on Jan. 20, with one zeroing in on staffing costs.

The caller wanted to know about benefits and wages and “head counts” in various departments, and what staff had done to rein in costs.

CAO Glenn Schwendinger said an organizational review was completed earlier in the year and that formed the basis of staffing as reflected in the budget.

He noted staff has agreed to a 0% wage increase in 2021 to help contain costs.

“We consider this a unique year,” Schwendinger said.

“All projects needed to be justified and any that could be deferred, we would hold off. We also reviewed existing expenditures and asked if they are still appropriate.”

The caller then turned his attention to council.

“You need to have empathy for those who lost their jobs,” he said, recommending  councillors should also take a hit to keep costs down.

He suggested no travel expenses be allowed, no professional development, and that council should take a 10% wage decrease.

Mayor James Seeley said council has already opted out of conferences this year and is mindful of the impact the pandemic has had on individuals and families in the community.

As well, removing these items from the budget makes it more difficult to add them back in future years.

“Leaving the money there will help us not to raise taxes in the future,” Seeley said.

Council will make its final decision on the 2021 budget on Feb. 10.