West Nipissing budget talks starting at 6.8% tax increase

·2 min read

West Nipissing council is looking at a potential 6.8% property tax increase as it enters its third session of budget deliberations at 1 p.m. today.

Meetings are public and accessible through the municipality’s YouTube channel.

Mayor Joanne Savage said the estimate already calculates a $1.5-million surplus from 2020 being applied to the 2021 estimated expenditures of $25.7 M. She said the left-over cash stems from provincial COVID-19 support funds, projects being deferred and hiring that was budgeted but not executed.

One smaller example of savings was $76,000 in unspent fuel allocation as public works and fire department vehicle use reduced significantly.

Jay Barbeau, chief administrative officer, explained to council at the outset of discussions that the big question is what services does council want to provide when this COVID “mayhem” is over.

“There’s too much uncertainty to make major changes,” Barbeau said, noting they will be looking in detail at “business continuity” priorities.

Big cost centres include $4.9-M for policing and $2.4-M for the fire department.

Savage said the challenges moving forward include dealing with continuing impacts to the economy due to the pandemic.

“We’re really dealing with extenuating circumstances,” she said, noting they’ll be looking at every opportunity to both provide needed services and save money, including updates on which reserves are still necessary.

There’s about $2.7 M in various reserve accounts, much of it spoken for to maintain and replace capital equipment and facilities.

At the top of council’s mind, Savage said, that individuals, households and businesses are feeling the “financial stress and anxiety occurring in our backyard with decreased employment.”

Dave Dale is a Local Journalism Reporter with BayToday.ca. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Dale, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca