Norfolk residents to shoulder 3.9 per cent property tax hike

·2 min read

Residents of Norfolk County will see their property tax bill go up by 3.9 per cent this year after council finalized the 2021 budget on Tuesday.

Council wrestled down the tax increase from the latest proposal of 7.7 per cent by voting to eliminate the equivalent of 20 full-time positions, approve just over $3 million in cuts to programs and services, and borrow $2 million from the county’s legacy fund to balance the budget.

That last decision followed a contentious debate over whether it was wise to raid the legacy fund, which was created after the sale of Norfolk Power to Hydro One in 2014 and was meant only to generate investment income that could be used on infrastructure projects.

CAO Jason Burgess predicted the 2020 budget surplus — which will be determined in June, after an independent audit — will cover most if not all of the loan, meaning that the money may not have to actually leave the fund.

But Coun. Amy Martin remained opposed to the idea of touching the legacy fund’s principal, saying it set a dangerous precedent for future councils in need of quick cash.

Staff had recommended borrowing $5 million from the legacy fund this year and another $2.5 million next year to buy time to find additional savings for the cash-strapped county. Tuesday’s compromise vote means staff will have to find more operational savings to make up the difference and ward off a sharp tax hike in 2022.

Spokesperson Matt Terry said some of the jobs to be eliminated are currently vacant positions that will not be filled.

Councillors also confirmed an earlier decision to hold a byelection in May to fill the council seat in Ward 2 that opened up when veteran Langton-area councillor Roger Geysens resigned in December.

Residents of the largely agricultural riding will have the option to vote in person or by mail, in what county clerk Andy Grozelle said could be a trial run for introducing alternative voting options for the 2022 general election.

J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator