/MH budget put to public meeting

MH budget put to public meeting

By Darren Lum

After five rounds of budget talks, the 2021 Minden Hills draft budget was put before a public meeting on March 11.
The draft budget contains a levy increase of 3.75 per cent over the 2020 budget, equating to a tax rate increase of 3.08 per cent for residents. For residential properties, this will equate to an increase in property taxation of $11.47 for every $100,000 of assessment at the lower-tier level. For commercial properties, this will equate to an increase of $17 for every $100,000 of assessment at the lower-tier level.
The budget is scheduled to be passed March 25.

Water and sewage rates increase
In Minden, the water rates are expected to rise 3.7 per cent and sewer rates are going up three per cent.
The annual increase works out to 3.30 per cent.
Based on a calculation of minimum usage, the added cost for water and waste service is $9.94 more per month, translating to $39.76 more a year for a Minden resident. The annual cost would be $1,244.44.
Lutterworth residents will see an increase of 3.70 per cent or $42.84 more each month for an annual bill of $1,200.46, for those who have a flat fee.

Arena loan payment $650K per year
This year’s budget includes the start of the repayment of the loan that is paying for the bulk of the township’s new arena and recreation complex.
The township will make an external debenture payment in the annual amount of $650,000. This is based on a 25-year term of semi-annual payments at a 2.31 per cent rate with an estimated principle of $12,295,000.
“That number still needs to be firmed up so when that information is available it will come back to council. There are also a number of processes we need to go through to get the debenture finalized,” finance director Lorrie Blanchard told councillors. Staff continue to work toward getting the facility operational, and are hoping for a phased opening of some activities amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

Transfers from reserves
There was an 87.41 per cent increase in budgeted net transfers compared to 2020.
This is owed to the net transfer from reserves of $1,826,460, including a $23,795 transfer to the cemetery board. The net increase of $851,860 is the result of an increase of capital projects.
“A couple reasons there is we got some additional projects and we have transferred the $650,000 that we were moving into reserves anticipating a debenture project so that is no longer showing up on that schedule because it is now a debenture line,” Blanchard said.
Another factor is that council directed $600,000 be transferred from the capital project reserve and that includes the 2019 surplus. This was used to cover one-time expenditures such as rehabilitation of the Sedgwick Bridge, engineering for reconstruction projects on Scotch Line Road and Bobcaygeon Road, human resources requirements, the fire department and the Village Green walkway for 2021. The balance left is $24,450.

Unspent COVID-19 funding
Last year, the province kicked in $402,000 to help Minden Hills with unexpected costs and lost revenue, as part of Phase 1 pandemic recovery funding. In 2021, there has been an additional $202,047 added. The unspent funds were transferred to reserves in 2020, with a portion of the funds now included in the 2021 draft budget for emergency events within the fire department.
“The exact need for the balance of this funding is undetermined at this time, but will be utilized as unexpected expenditures or unrealized revenues occur,” a staff report read.

Budget recap
During the budget recap, Blanchard offered a breakdown of how much of each tax dollar is going to be allocated in the coming year. The largest expenditure is transportation, which is constituted mostly by the roads department, at 38 cents. Protection to persons and property, which includes building, bylaw, fire department and emergency services constitutes 26 cents. Parks, recreation and the cultural centre account for 25 cents of every dollar. Fourth on the list are environmental expenditures, which include landfills, water and waste water systems at 13 per cent. Finance and general government accounts for eight cents, planning and development four cents, and welfare two cents.