By Chad Ingram
Published Jan. 11 2018
Haliburton County residents are likely looking at a property tax increase of approximately 3.6 per cent at the upper tier level for 2018.
County councillors discussed the draft budget during a special council meeting on Jan. 4 and it’s expected the budget will be passed at council’s regular meeting at the end of the month.
The budget contains just more than $22 million in spending $16.3 million of which will be levied from taxation. The remainder of the revenues come from provincial and federal funding and a small portion from user charges and fees.
Forty-six per cent of the budget will be spent on transportation services which includes the roads department. Twenty per cent will be spent on health services; 13 per cent on general government; nine per cent on social and family service and social housing; six per cent on culture and recreation; five per cent on the planning department; and one per cent for protective services.
Salaries and benefits constitute 41 per cent of the total budget and county staff are scheduled for a 1.75 per cent wage increase in 2018 two per cent for paramedics as per a collective agreement.
The $16.3 million that will be levied from taxation is an $800000 jump from the $15.5 million that was levied in 2017 a total levy increase of 5.88 per cent.
The budget contains an increase in capital expenses of some $30000 and includes more than $4 million that will be spent on infrastructure including a series of roads and bridge projects as well as equipment vehicles and broadband infrastructure.
With an assessment increase of 3.55 per cent from MPAC (Municipal Property Assessment Corporation) and nearly one per cent in growth (new taxation) in the community the initial tax increase in the draft budget was 2.6 per cent.
This would have equated to an increase from $193.66 to $204.09 of taxation for every $100000 of assessment.
However some members of council were concerned about the county’s decreasing reserve levels.
“I still see what looks like a really significant drop between 2017 and 2018” said Algonquin Highlands Deputy Mayor Liz Danielsen. “I think we need to talk about it. It’s not a healthy position as far as reserves are concerned.”
The county’s total reserves currently total about $2.8 million and were scheduled to sit at approximately $2.1 million by the end of the 2018.
“It really was a planned decrease” county chief administrative officer Mike Rutter told councillors.
The county’s reserve levels have been on the decline for years. In 2011 total reserves balances were nearly $4.5 million. Facing decreases in provincial equalization payments council has drawn on reserves over the years to keep debt and taxation levels low. Some auditors suggest to be in a healthy position a municipality should ideally have the equivalent of half a year’s tax levy in reserves.
Dysart et al Mayor Murray Fearrey suggested increasing the taxation rate increase by another percentage point using that money to beef up reserves. A one per cent increase at the county level equates to $150000 in taxation for the municipality. Councillors decided that $50000 from the additional one per cent hike would be used to pay for a transit implementation plan and that the remaining $100000 would go into reserves.