Taxes going up in Essa Township

·2 min read

There’s a small shop that sells healthy lotions, potions and pills on Mill Street. Tucked inside, behind the till and a thick sheet of Plexiglas, sits Essa Mayor Sandie Macdonald.

She talks fast and has handy notes about the pandemic and how it will cost each household worth $500,000 another $6.87 per month ($82.64 annually) on their municipal taxes this year.

Feeling the pinch of a $680,000 shortfall, Macdonald said staff and council had little choice but to approve a three per cent tax increase on the 2021 budget.

“When you take a budget and start off that far behind, it is a challenge,” Macdonald said, from her Naturally For You shop, where she’s down two staff members due to the pandemic. “We tried to take a proactive approach to control our budget expenditures.”

Macdonald says the shortfall consists of three things: $180,000 due to lost parks and recreation revenue from lack of rentals; another $250,000 in lost revenue in the planning and economic development office due to shortfalls blamed largely on COVID-19; and another $180,000 lost on bank interest on the town’s investment savings, when interest rates dropped from around seven per cent to a much lower rate.

In the 2021 budget, cuts were made to the library’s renovations and staff’s hours, as well as the spraying of calcium only once during the summer to keep dust down on work sites.

Simcoe County and neighbouring Springwater Township have announced zero increases on their 2021 budgets. Essa Township — where Statistics Canada says the average household income is $87,543 — will hardly feel the pinch.

Yet with the costs of heat, hydro and insurance increasing for not just homes, but the township as well, Macdonald said this isn’t the time to take on loans to cover the cost of the shortfall and possibly rob from next year’s budget.

“It’s a needs not wants budget,” agreed Essa CAO Colleen Healey-Dowdall.

Cheryl Browne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance