The township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands has passed its 2021 budget and there's slightly better news for property owners.
The township's preliminary budget had proposed a 6.7-per-cent increase to the municipal tax rate, but new money received from the province means the township will only be increasing the municipal rate by six per cent.
"The 2021 revised budget information includes the Safe Restart funding in the amount of $72,000 which reduces the revenue required to be raised by the property tax levy," wrote Kate Tindal, township treasurer, in her report to council.
The education portion of property taxes is remaining flat this year, and while the county was proposing a 1.5-per-cent increase, there seems to be little appetite around the county table for such a hike.
"I had county budget today, and it's very clear to me that the majority will not accept a 1.5-per-cent increase, although no decisions have been made," Mayor Corinna Smith-Gatcke told council members on Monday, adding "it's likely to be a one-per-cent increase or less."
If the counties raise taxes by one per cent, that will translate to a 3.1-per-cent overall annual increase in property taxes for residents of Leeds and the Thousand Islands or an additional $56.90 per year on the average home valued at $196,000.
The 2021 township's budget includes a freeze on both step increases and annual cost of living adjustments to all council, non-union, management and supervisory salaries. The salary freeze was not initiated by council though it was readily supported by all council members.
"The salary freeze was my initiative with the support of the senior management team," said Stephen Donachey, the township's chief executive officer.
The biggest impact on the township budget in 2021 is the drastic reduction in casino revenues. The township has for years relied on about $1.5 million in casino money to fund township reserves, but this year, Tindal is taking a cautious approach and only projecting revenue of about $100,000, a dizzying $1.4 million drop.
That means that the township has to fund its own reserves from tax rates and service revenues.
"We're now dealing with the same reality that every other municipality that doesn't have a casino has to deal with every year – we don't have the golden goose to top up our coffers," pointed out Coun. Terry Fodey.
Although Coun. Brian Mabee retained some concerns over passing the final budget before the county levy is known, every council member expressed support for the budget that was created.
"Our budget this year was very tight and very skinny and I appreciate the effort that went into developing it," said Coun. Mark Jamison.
Heddy Sorour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times