Tiny council committee approves 11% municipal tax increase

Tiny Township council agreed that better communication with residents would be needed down the road, as the preliminary 2023 budget was passed during the recent committee of the whole.

Due to be formally ratified at the next council meeting, a 10.82 per cent preliminary municipal tax rate increase was approved unanimously, resulting in a preliminary blended tax rate increase of 5.96 percent.

The municipal tax dollar increase over the 2022 amounts was calculated at $35.60 for every $100,000 of residential assessment, and $124.59 for every $350,000 of residential average assessment.

Along with a set 2.5 percent increase in the cost of living adjustment (COLA), result was a $15.45-million total municipal tax levy.

The day started with a deputation from Tiny resident Janet Marks, who had come into the budget discussion as a newcomer, but soon delved deep into the realities of fiscal bureaucracy.

“I am voicing concerns over the current budget because of an article that I read in MidlandToday,” Marks explained. “It all started with asset management being underfunded by two-thirds.

“This article led me down a rabbit hole. The more I am learning about the budget, the more concerns I have.”

Marks described to council that the starting point for her was the 2022 presentation from PSD Citywide as a proactive initiative by the municipality to get a handle on its asset management – as per a provincial mandate for all municipalities. She branched further into paths regarding long-term strategies; Tiny had been shown as underfunding a recommended $12-million annual contribution to asset upkeep by only attributing $3.7 million per year.

Her barrage of questions came from a viewpoint of an average resident with concerns over the proposed tax rate from the previous budget discussion.

“I’ve been asking questions about asset management among my friends, and everybody was just so shocked by it. Very shocked,” said Marks who expressed thanks that the township was being proactive in tackling the issue. However, she chided the municipality on their inability to inform residents.

“Some really good communication has to go on around it to inform us. Because when I heard it I got upset. And I only heard from it because of MidlandToday; nothing to do with Tiny. I would like to see more positive communication around that.”

While Marks’ request to pause on approving the budget wasn’t upheld, council was accepting to her suggestion that a town hall dedicated to asset management would be of great value to the township who might not understand the full implications of the 10.82 percent increase.

Replied Mayor Dave Evans: “I think (a town hall on fiscal policy) is something the public deserves, and frankly council, I think we’re doing ourselves a disservice by not publicizing it more. And we’d look to do that in the next month or two.”

Once the budget was brought up later in the agenda, it was a matter of cleaning up items left over from the previous discussion.

The purchase of a snowblower for the Huronia Airport which caught partnering municipal councils of Midland and Penetanguishene off guard was also addressed by Tiny, with some on council expressing disappointment in the agency; and a request to replace lights at the Wyevale ball diamond was put on hold to await fundraising discussions.

Evans summed up the support and reasoning for council preparing to approve the preliminary 2023 budget, emphasizing how Tiny Township isn’t such a tiny township.

“As we know, this community is going through big changes demographically; we’re almost 60 percent permanent people,” said Evans. “We have 19,000 registered voters, Midland has 14,000 and Penetang has 7,000. We are a big community, and we are going to have a lot of people that are looking for additional services and an additional level of services moving forward in the future. And how are we going to meet that?

“We cannot meet that by adjusting our budget year over year with tax increases. We have to start looking at different macro-strategies of funding, and one of those is debentures. We’ve talked about it; Tiny has never done it."

He added that it wouldn’t be a one-year project, but rather a 20-year project. “This is something that is prudent fiscal management, and it has to be done.

“Our budget is OPP and public works, 70 percent of it. That’s a huge percentage of it. We’re 440 kilometres of roads, 350-square-kilometres of land. We’ve got a lot of area we have to work with, and the conditions that are unique to ourselves. But I feel fully confident that the groundwork has been set and now we’re able to put in place a program and strategy that will ensure that Tiny is fiscally sound and robust for years and years to come.”

CAO Robert Lamb also noted the difference between revenue and expenses as municipalities across Canada own and are responsible for 90 per cent of their infrastructure, but only receive 12 per cent of tax revenue.

“When we say there is a funding crunch at the local level and it’s on the backs of the local municipalities – in most cases on the backs of the local residential taxpayer – it’s really evident when it comes to this debate and this discussion,” said Lamb.

The budget will be passed onto council for formal adoption at the next regular meeting.

The 2023 budget update report with follow up items can be found on the agenda through the township website.

Updated information on the proceedings can be located on the Tiny Township budget web page.

Archives of council meetings are available to view on Tiny Township’s YouTube channel.

Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca