Overall levy rising by nearly 26%

Gillies Township, Ont. — Gillies Township has finally passed its 2023 budget, with some taxpayers fearing the worst and the municipality suggesting some relief may be available. Council unanimously approved the $1.5-million budget at Monday night’s meeting with an overall levy increase of just under 26 per cent, clerk-treasurer Laura Bruni confirmed on Tuesday. The unprecedented increase is on par with what taxpayers had been dreading all summer, as the rural municipality sought to raise about $652,000 from local sources, compared to $438,000 in 2022. How much in property taxes individual property owners pay depends on the value of their properties, which is set by the province. Reeve Wendy Wright, who had earlier blamed the anticipated steep rate increase on inflation and rising costs, declined to be interviewed on Tuesday. “I have prior commitments all week and therefore I am unavailable,” Wright replied in an email when asked for details. Details are to be posted to the municipality’s website “as soon as possible,” Wright added. She had said she doesn’t expect similarly high increases in 2024. Bruni said council has also voted in favour of removing interest penalties on outstanding taxes between October and December this year. Council pledged to review the municipality’s tax relief bylaw at its Oct. 10 meeting.Taxpayers couldn’t attend Monday’s meeting in person, although an internet link to the meeting was provided. Property owner Kathy McGowan said Tuesday “I expect that during the next two to three years, our property tax will increase hundreds of dollars annually.” McGowan said trying to follow Monday’s meeting via the link was “frustrating.” “It’s difficult following what councillors are talking about when they don’t provide basic information to the public in advance, and the internet connection is unstable at times,” she said. Some in the township have talked about disbanding the municipality and becoming unorganized. According to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, such a move would have to be initiated by the province or the municipality. Wright said earlier she has no intention of doing so. “We’ve been a township for 100 years,” she said. “You just don’t throw that away.”