Woodstock mayor recommends town tax rate remains unchanged

·2 min read

From Mayor Art Slipp's perspective, Woodstock residents can expect neither an increase nor a decrease in their tax rate in the 2022 budget.

During a council in committee meeting, Nov. 2 to discuss budget issues, the mayor reminded council the substantial increase in the town's tax base won't deliver as considerable a financial boost as it might appear.

"We're in a very, very tight spot even though it appears we have significant additional revenue," Slipp explained.

Figures issued by the province last month show the town's growth and increased property value delivered a 6.76 per cent jump in the town's tax base from just under $518 million to $553 million.

Slipp said two items would erode the additional tax revenue delivered by the larger warrant. First, he explained, the town saw a significant drop in its municipal grant. Secondly, he added, council and staff must contend with substantial demands to adequately fund Woodstock's operating budget.

Acting CEO Andrew Garnett, who led the discussion with directors and department heads during the Nov. 2 meeting, said the town lost about $171,000 in grant funding.

Slipp told council the increase in assessment values, combined with the decrease in grants, should produce a net gain of approximately $345,000.

He said that's not a major gain concerning the financial demands on the town.

Slipp said preliminary budget demands already exceeded the town's net gain.

"So we're in a very tight space," he said. "There is no question that we're again, at this point, with no money, probably, or surplus for capital."

Slipp said the town made an exception last year to its ongoing efforts to pay as they go by borrowing $700,000 for capital costs.

"Those loans are going to have to be repaid," he said. "So we're going to have a significant increase in our principal and our interest payments in 2022."

Slipp said staff and council would review operation budgets closely to find savings, but he expects money to be tight even before looking at capital expenditures.

The Nov. 2 budget discussion reviewed in detail budget requirements with each department, including Woodstock Police Force Chief Gary Forward, Fire Chief Harold McLellan, and directors Tobie Pirie from tourism, Kelly Foster-Hallett from recreation and the AYR Motor Centre and Greg Stokes from public works. Garnett also offered information regarding planning and development, where he serves as director, in addition to his role as acting CEO.

Garnett said the department heads will work with the mayor and council in the following weeks to delve into capital priorities for 2022.

He said council could pass a budget with specific capital items or a capital dollar amount with council deciding where the funds go later.

Garnett advised, however, to make those decisions sooner than later.

Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun

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