Hastings Highlands readying final 2023 budget for passage at April meeting

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At their meeting on March 1, the Municipality of Hastings Highlands council accepted the 2023 draft operating budget for a second reading and directed staff by resolution to transfer an extra $100,000 to the reserves in the 2023 budget. Treasurer Tanya Dickinson comments on the progress of the 2023 draft budget, which currently has an approximate projected tax rate increase of 4.98 per cent. The final budget is expected to be passed at the April 5 meeting.

During the first reading of the budget at the Feb. 22 meeting, council directed staff to find efficiencies to reduce the proposed tax increase of 4.2 per cent by 0.5 per cent, to 3.7 per cent. They also directed staff to fund a $25,000 donation to the Back the Cat campaign, to be funded via a transfer from the reserve for working capital.

Some of the factors that arose that will affect the 2023 budget, according to Dickinson, were; the mandatory Ontario Municipal Employees’ Retirement System program expansion to non-full-time employees, insurance renewal costs, and the inflationary impacts on goods and services.

At the first reading proposal of the 2023 draft budget, there was a total of $11,596,958.47 in expenditures, which went down to $11,483,258.47 for the second reading proposal of the budget.

At the March 1 meeting of council, council directed Dickinson and staff to increase the budget to allow the addition of an extra $100,000 to be transferred to the reserves in the 2023 budget.

“Council’s discussion surrounding the additional $100,000 transfer to reserves was to address the municipality’s aging infrastructure into the future,” she says.

Dickinson says that this will equate with an approximate 1.28 levy increase, resulting in a total approximate levy increase of 4.98 per cent in 2023. She says that these changes will be included in the third reading of the budget to be presented at the April 5 meeting.

Dickinson says they’re keeping the Hastings Highlands’ Have Your Say portal updated with community members’ feedback on the 2023 budget. She says that upcoming changes approved by council and any scheduled readings are updated on that page. Hastings Highlands residents that are interested in providing feedback on the 2023 budget are encouraged to visit www.hastingshighlands.ca/have-your-say-hastings-highlands/2023-draft-operating-budget/. Dickinson told The Bancroft Times on March 16 they are still collecting public feedback regarding the 2023 operating budget via the Have Your Say webpage.

“[We] will continue to do so until council formally adopts the budget and tax rates later in the spring.”

Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times