BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
SCUGOG: Scugog residents can expect to pay an extra $33 on this year's tax bill, even with the late addition of another unexpected item to the township's 2013 budget.
The budget was passed at council's Feb. 11 meeting, following discussion of the final draft of the document at a meeting held earlier that afternoon. This year's budget will result in a tax hike of 3.51 per cent, or approximately $33 on the average tax bill of a property assessed at $329,000. This year's tax hike was trimmed down from a jump of 3.6 per cent proposed last month, that figure reduced from an earlier hike of 5.25 per cent pitched a week earlier.
Although staff and councillors cited ongoing budget pressures noted in previous years such as rising insurance and fuel costs, the township also had to make up for a shortfall in provincial funding, after it was announced in December that Scugog's 2013 share of Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) dollars - $1,222,600 - would be substantially less than the previous contribution of $1,355,400. According to township treasurer Trena DeBruijn in an earlier interview, the $132,800 reduction is equal to approximately 1.3 per cent of Scugog's 2012 tax levy.
Among the items in this year's budget:
- more than $2,458,000 in infrastructure maintenance costs
- $25,000 in community hall maintenance
- $13,000 toward the fire department's next-generation radio system
- $25,000 for a development charge study
- $22,900 in library operation expenditures
Describing the budget as somewhat tight, Ward 5 Councillor and Finance Chair Howard Danson noted that 2013 will also see the township complete its debentures on the municipal office building as well as the second ice pad at the Scugog Arena, paving the way for a brighter 2014.
In addition to the payment of those items, the councillor also cited a number of other upcoming projects in the township in his assessment of the coming years, including the proposed Scugog Island hotel/resort, as well as renovations at the Blackstock Recreation Centre and Greenbank Airport.
"We should all feel good about the progress we've made over the last two years," said the councillor, "and our current financial status is in good shape as the reserves show. I'm looking to a dynamic year on council, despite our funding being restricted somewhat. But it's the old adage - we have to do more with less."
Although the budget was passed on Feb. 11, Mayor Chuck Mercier said that some fine-tuning will be required in March, when a report detailing an arbitration award for Scugog firefighters who sought to unionize comes before councillors. With the award being announced last week, Mayor Mercier said that councillors will have to look at removing some items from the budget rather than increasing the burden on taxpayers.
"We'll have some more things to consider on March 4," said the mayor. "The award was substantial and we'll have to examine the impact. It won't change the 3.51 per cent tax increase, but it will cause us to make some other decisions. We'll find out what the impact is, and then look at a menu of options. It's a financial impact but I'm not prepared to delay the budget process."
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