By Chad Ingram
The Township of Minden Hills accrued a large surplus last year one totalling more than $900000.
During a May 14 committee-of-the-whole meeting councillors received a reportfrom chief administrative officer/treasurer Lorrie Blanchard indicatingthat pending an audit the township had accrued a 2019 surplus of$904370. That surplus is equivalent to 10.72 per cent of the year’s tax levy.
Blanchard’s report showed that much of the surplus more than $500000 is attributed to unfilled staffing positions and associatedwages and benefits.
Of note this summary provides a separate column that outlines the amount of surplus that is attributed to wages andbenefits as it relates to an inability to replace staff to hire newstaff (as approved by council) and/or as a result of hirings thatoccurred later than expected and budgeted” the report read. “This total represents approximately $503480.”
Additional variances includedsupplemental taxes write-offs amounts retained from the school boardgas tax top-ups and bank interest income that was higher than budgeted.The report also included a list of potential projects where some of thesurplus could be spent including more than $300000 worth of “valueitems” for the township’s arena project those being items such asfurniture and equipment not included in the project’s budget.
Councillor Bob Carter said he thought the township was going to receive somepretty extreme criticism having a surplus that totalled nearly 11 percent of its tax levy.
“I think it’s very important for us torecognize that this isn’t found money this is taxpayer money” Cartersaid. Carter said he thought the surplus should be used for coreprojects to help offset any tax increase for residents next year andnot on “favourites” that were on the list of potential uses.
Carter noted that 2020 was going be a difficult year for many.
“From my perspective it’s not going into nice-to-have projects” Cartersaid with Councillor Ron Nesbitt saying he agreed with Carter 100 percent.
“I hope with our next budget we can manage this better” said Councillor Pam Sayne with regard to the size of the surplus.
“A lot of people in our county during this pandemic are without work”said Deputy Mayor Lisa Schell agreeing that the surplus should be usedto offset any tax increase next year.
Council is also consideringways to assist residents with some relief on property taxes and isscheduled to discuss that issue further at an upcoming meeting. MayorBrent Devolin said he’d like to see a post-COVID-19 analysis of thetownship’s finances conducted later in the year.
For the time being the surplus will be parked in the township’s capital project reserve.