Council decided to take a 3.5 percent local tax increase to the public meeting on the budget on Tuesday, Jan. 11.
That meant accepting almost all savings found by staff, to bring the rate down from a previous 4.8 percent level.
However, council decided to add another bylaw enforcement officer, because of public concerns and complaints about violations.
It’s possible that money for the bylaw position could come from COVID relief funding in 2022, the treasurer said, but there would be a tax impact in future years if the position was kept.
Council accepted proposed reductions to reach a 3.5 percent local taxation rate.
Deputy-Mayor Brian Milne said that with an increase under four percent with inflation running at nearly five percent, he didn’t think there was much more discussion. He said he was happy with the budget, other than perhaps little tweaks, unless something came out of the public meeting.
After the public information meeting, the budget will come back to Southgate council for final approval on Feb. 2.
There were some updates to figures when Southgate council took another look at budget figures on Dec. 22.
One of these, already mentioned in a previous article, was raising the anticipated Grey County rate, which affects the estimate of the overall hit to the taxpayer through the blended municipal, county and education tax increases. That went up to 3.75 percent from an estimated two percent. The assessment was also updated at a higher figure.
As council members considered the numbers, they kept in mind that a one percent increase to the levy would be about $136,000.
The treasurer recommended against cutting the capital budget. The previous starting point had been 5.3 percent.
After staff was asked to decrease that amount, the treasurer’s suggestions in the agenda for Dec. 21 led to a 3.3 percent increase, which went to 3.5 percent increase when council decided to keep the added bylaw officer position.
One change suggested was to have the new library assistant start April 1, and having shared duties with economic development. That would relate to creating digital material for the township, similar to the Grey Highlands cultural channel, which receives a Trillium grant.
As well, EDO Terri Murphy said that the digital position could help run Digital Main Street, which supports local businesses create a web presence and even add online ordering.
Council discussed a projected $900,000 in the building reserve. Money in that reserve, however, can only be used to offset costs of the building department, not to lower taxes, council heard.
The new bylaw position would probably be only about 10 percent related to the building department, the CBO said, and the rest would be general complaints and noise issues.
The numbers in public works had changed since the last meeting due to an error of omitting some of the staff costs.
In his update to the budget, Fire Chief Derek Malynyk presented a cost related to online training and testing computer costs due to COVID. He updated council that the new truck is expected in the first two weeks of January.
The treasurer outlined a number of reductions to planned purchases in public works and other departments for council to consider.
Public Works Manager Jim Ellis updated council on discussions on the township gravel pit which has been stalled due to larger concerns by SON about the cumulative impact of pits.
He also suggested even money could be saved by spacing out gravel maintenance further or switching to a less expensive calcium, but councillors were not wanting to decrease that maintenance.
Coun. Rice commented that he was happy with the decreases that staff found. Mayor John Woodbury agreed, “It’s a tough budget year, for there’s got to be increases and so nobody’s happy with that part, but I think if we cut any more we’re going to backwards too much.”
M.T. Fernandes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Dundalk Herald