Town council here has approved a 2015 budget with an increase of just under four per cent in the local levy.
Treasurer Gordon Duff says that when blended with county and education portions, total taxes will increase 1.7% for the average residential ratepayer in a home valued at $202,000, which translates into about $4 more per month, or $48 per year.
Minto taxes are increasing by 3.6%, meaning $39 of the $48 increase will go to the town. County taxes will go up by $17 for the typical Minto taxpayer, while education taxes will go down by $8, or a “full two per cent,” said Duff.
The budget, approved at the April 21 meeting, includes just under $7 million in capital work funded by a combination of $2.5 million of new borrowing, $1.6 million in grants, $1.7 million of reserves and revenue, and the balance from other sources.
The budget adds about $950,000 to reserves from various sources. The town will borrow an additional $1.5 million to assist North Wellington Health Care’s construction of the Minto Rural Health Centre in Palmerston. NWHC will pay back the borrowed amount, with interest, from the proceeds of the new facility.
With an operational deficit of $3,979,880 and unfunded capital expenditures of $383,345, the town will raise $4,363,225 through taxation, up by $198,210, or just under 4%, from last year’s budgeted levy of $4,170,415.
Major capital projects include Elora Street reconstruction in Harriston at $1.7 million, three blocks of Ann Street in Clifford at $430,000, work on James Street in Palmerston totaling about $816,000, and resurfacing 6th Line of Minto at $480,000 over two years. The Bride Road culvert will be completed at a cost of $652,000, along with $90,000 more in culvert work in other rural locations.
The capital budget also includes up to $30,000 for the first stage of a new information management system, which will allow for a reduction in paper documents generated by the municipality. The figure includes about $8,000 to purchase tablet computers for council and department heads, as well as funds for software and other equipment upgrades.
In a press release issued by the municipality, Mayor George Bridge stated, “Our budget process is very transparent with meetings broadcast locally and on YouTube. Our staff engage the public answering questions on-line and at the open house. Council kept the overall increase reasonable while adding to reserves and addressing capital needs.”
Finance committee chair councillor Mary Lou Colwell stated, “people understand the importance of maintaining our infrastructure, and a lot of work will be completed while keeping the overall increase below inflation.”
At the meeting, Colwell thanked Duff and other members of the treasury department as well as town department heads and council for their work on the budget.
“I think everyone in the room and I think all our taxpayers know we work very diligently on doing the budget every year and this was no exception. The department has brought us a budget that is not a wish list; it is an actual budget that is very realistic,” said Colwell.
She also commended staff efforts to keep the budget process understandable.
“I think everyone around this table can see that you don’t need to be a mathematician to go through our budget, to understand it. We had the open house. We had a better turnout this year than last. It would be really nice if we got a fantastic turnout in years to come because it is their tax dollars that we’re spending.”
Duff said he felt council and staff collaborate well on the budget.
“We’re always making difficult decisions … we have a very, I think, aggressive and imaginative budget. We’re trying to address the infrastructure deficit, but still be fiscally responsible and it’s certainly a challenge,” Duff stated.