Mono wrestles with spending priorities, acceptable tax levy
These are difficult financial times and it’s hard for a town council to keep to a “digestible” necessary tax increase.
Mono council gave Les Halucha, the town’s treasurer, his marching orders during a special meeting March 2 to discuss the municipality’s financial outlook for 2023. He has to return to council with another draft of the operating and capital budget for council’s consideration March 14.
And he was asked to measure a spending wish list against an acceptable tax levy increase. A “digestible” tax levy, said Councillor Melinda Davie.
“What about robbing a bank?” quipped Deputy Mayor Fred Nix.
The town would like to cut between $2.5 million and $2.8 million from the budget. That would allow an acceptable tax increase.
“We’re so far off $2.8 million. I don’t know what instructions we leave them (treasury staff) with,” said Nix.
Mayor John Creelman said council has to try to find sufficient money to land at a four per cent increase.
“Or five per cent, six per cent, I don’t know,” he said.
Creelman said council needs to give the treasurer an indication of what sort of levy increase could be tolerated.
“I thought Les (Halucha, the treasurer) said that we had given him enough instructions that they can go off and will be able to find the savings, the changes,” Davie said.
Nix said he’s prepared to allow a 5.5 per cent increase. With growth factored in, there could be a 6.5 per cent increase.
“Which is roughly in line with what our calculation of the rate of inflation from September to October was,” Nix said. “I’m prepared to go that high, at least, if we have to. I think that shaves another $142,000 off.”
Creelman said the Dufferin County upper tier crowd is landing at a tax levy of 4.1 per cent. Nearby Orangeville is at about three per cent and they’re using interest money from the recent sale of railway assets to manage the rate, he said.
Shelburne is in the range of about a one per cent increase to taxpayers, but they’re awash from growth money that allows them to keep the tax rate down, he said.
“If we defer and we don’t put money in reserves, and things still need to be spent next year, even if all of a sudden the economy flips over and 2024 is terrific, we still have an issue that we’ve deferred a whole bunch of things,” Davie said.
“I think that it isn’t just a one-year time that the rate will have to go up.”
She said council should consider holding at a four per cent tax levy increase. One per cent to the levy means a mere $84,000 to the budget, she said.
“It’s a very small amount and it’s tough out there for everybody with costs for everything,” she said. “For the person who is paying. The taxpayer.”
Town staff have already said spending priorities and projects removed from the budget this year will come back next year during the budgeting process.
Coun. Ralph Manktelow said if council doesn’t put money into infrastructure, things are going to deteriorate.
“And yet we know that also the people who have elected us are expecting us to give them a reasonable increase in taxes,” he said.
Manktelow said Mono residents tackled a one per cent tax increase in 2021, followed by a 2.4 per cent increase in 2022. But post-pandemic worldwide factors have altered the economic landscape for everybody this year.
“We’re in a difficult bind here,” Manktelow said. “To try and predict what the situation is going to be like financially next year and the year after is a fool’s game.”
He said its isn’t realistic to even venture a guess what finances will look like a year from now. They didn’t know last year what the current purse would look like for the town.
“I think that we have to deal with this one year at a time,” he said, and added that he favours maintaining a four per cent increase to taxpayers.
James Matthews, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Orangeville Citizen