The lit fire under Mayor Doug Leroux has created embers that will smoulder for years.
Penetanguishene council begrudgingly carried the final draft for the 2022 budget in a special committee of the whole meeting, which saw a large amount of thanks given to the staff and treasury department for accomplishing one of the town’s greatest challenges in its modern era.
Residential properties should expect an increase of 1.9% to the overall total potential tax impact based on the municipal price index, or in other words, an increase of $27.79 per every $100,000 of current value assessment.
Deputy Mayor Anita Dubeau walked through that amount in a manageable analogy, and nearly broke on its realization.
“Basically, a home in our community that’s worth say $500,000 is still going to have a tax increase of approximately $135,” Dubeau estimated. “It’s a big chunk when in a lot of homes in our community, people are struggling already.
“It is imperative, I suppose, that we try to make some kind of a deal with the government to help us along with this in some fashion,” said Dubeau as her voice quivered, “to help us with this situation we find ourselves in, because a big portion of that is related to CNCC and it does fold our hands for future capital projects or costs within.”
Mayor Doug Leroux pounced on that comment.
“It’s not just a large portion, it’s the whole portion, when we consider that… if we didn’t have that 3% tax increase, we’d be at a -1.8%,” Leroux explained.
Dubeau and Leroux referenced the loss of the Central North Correctional Centre (CNCC) cost of policing recovery at the hands of the province in 2019. Faced with a 3.1% or $346,000 increase for policing on its own heading into the 2022 budget discussions, Penetanguishene staff and council fought through months of budget cuts to bring the entire tax impact as near to the target of 1.5% as they could.
Throughout the year, Leroux and CAO Jeff Lees have struggled in gaining meaningful discussion with the Minister of the Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, only recently receiving a reiteration of the province’s stance to uphold 2020 and 2021 invoice payments. That response came after Leroux initiated a public campaign for Penetanguishene residents to petition Jones and MPP Jill Dunlop to enact change.
“We have to keep plugging at the province to come across and pay their due share of policing at a provincial institution. I can promise you that that is going to continue,” Leroux asserted in the budget discussion.
Coun. George Vadeboncoeur agreed the topic should be kept “front and centre” while Coun. Jull St. Amant asked that the public to “please keep sending letters in or keep signing petitions to keep on top of our government.”
Leroux reinforced a need for residents to petition Jones and Dunlop, noting that through the Penetanguishene Community Forum social media group, a grassroots Change.org petition had begun but had only acquired 149 signatures on it to date.
To reduce the CNCC amount, staff opted to increase a transfer from the policing stabilization reserve for $178,500 to the tax stabilization reserve.
Coun. Dan LaRose asked director of finance/treasurer Carrie Robillard if the budget had planned to replenish that reserve; Robillard answered no.
“The situation is not going to go away in 2023 either,” Robillard agreed. “But we could lessen it to a degree that more manageable over the next couple of years until the loss of that CNCC cost recovery is built back into our budget. Eventually, it would be fully tax supported.”
LaRose replied, “Knowing it’s still going to be the (full $376,000) that is going to be tax funded, we have to really remember that. Because that’s (3.1%) to do that over the next few years; the reserves will only run out.
“I’m just a little bit worried that we’re using so much of them to do it this time that we might be shooting ourselves in the foot,” LaRose added.
Suggestions from the second budget draft were carried into the final, and as well as the CNCC amount other findings included: an approximate $57,000 increase in the municipal tax levy from 1.0% to 1.5% for anticipated new assessment from growth; $14,700 from an increased 2022 OMPF (Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund) assistance grant; and various reductions in council and community contributions for roughly $7,500.
Reductions to the total of approximately $160,000 were due to: a road maintenance program; part time wages and benefits being increased; and salaries and benefits increased for a cost-saving junior planner position to become permanent full-time.
No change was given to the town capital at 0%, with the potential town operating tax impact reduced to $22,230 or 0.2% which offset the revised potential policing impact of $272,052 or 2.4% to arrive at the 2.2% total potential tax impact, or $249,822.
The overall total potential tax impact was also based on a 2.0% county tax increase, and a 0% provincial education tax difference.
Council will consider formally adopting the 2022 Municipal Budget at its regular meeting scheduled for December 8 at 7:00 p.m.
A link to the final budget draft #3 report as well as the public consultation presentation can be found on the Town of Penetanguishene budget web page.
Archives of the special committee of the whole meeting are located on the Town of Penetanguishene YouTube channel.
Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca