DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: After months of number crunching, Uxbridge Council put the finishing touches on the 2013 municipal budget on Monday, Jan. 28, with a tentative 3.77 per cent increase to the municipal portion of the tax bill.
The funding is broken down into a 2.77 per cent increase in the operating/capital projects budget, plus an additional one per cent set aside for the new fire hall, which is expected to be operational by 2014. This coming year marks the final year of the additional one per cent increase to offset the construction costs of the new fire hall, which is expected to be constructed on Brock St., just west of Quaker Village Dr.
For the average Uxbridge residence, with an assessed value of $400,000, the increase amounts to an extra $40.15 per household for the year.
"It came down to essentially an increase of 2.77 per cent with an extra one per cent added for the final year of fire hall funding," explained Finance Committee Chair Pat Molloy, who also serves as councillor for Ward 2.
The final approval of the municipal budget is expected to take place at Council's meeting on the morning of Monday, Feb. 11.
Although the township has allocated $9,603,482 in spending for the next year, Councillor Molloy added that the budget is in large part, a financial framework for the township.
"This is a budget, and it's not necessarily cast in stone," explained Councillor Molloy. "It's a framework we're going to work with, although the nickels and dimes may change as the year goes on."
Councillors praised the work of township staff, including the various department managers for all of their hard work throughout the budget process. Last week, after council had already slashed several thousand dollars from the budget, department heads were again tasked with finding additional savings for the township's residents.
The various department heads returned to council chambers this week with an additional $115,800 taken out of the operating budget and an additional $281,500 removed from the capital projects budget.
Although the budget process is nearing an end for this year, several councillors noted that there are still several tough decisions ahead regarding municipally-owned assets.
Ward 4 Councillor Jacob Mantle presented four such areas of concern to councillors at their meeting on Jan. 28.
Councillor Mantle raised concerns over the long-term viability of the Foster Memorial, the Uxbridge Historical Centre, the Siloam Hall and the Orange Hall in Goodwood.
The concerns raised by Councillor Mantle regarding the Foster Memorial dealt mainly with the facility's much-needed structural repairs, while the Historical Centre, Siloam Hall and Orange Hall all have similar issues with expenditures exceeding revenues.
Mayor Gerri Lynn O'Connor agreed with the majority of Councillor Mantle's sentiments, particularly with regards to the Foster Memorial, with the Mayor suggesting that the township look to the higher levels of government for support in maintaining the cultural landmark.
"We've got to be able to do something fast with the Foster," said Mayor O'Connor. "We saved it once, but we're not in a position to own and maintain it. This presents an opportunity for us to reach out to both the federal and provincial governments for support."
Bev Northeast, Councillor for Ward 1, also expressed concerns over the Foster Memorial, and pushed for a speedy resolution to the maintenance issues.
"We can't neglect the Foster any longer," said Councillor Northeast. "We need to look to someone who is going to take care of it over the long term. But, we need to start repairs right away because no one in their right mind is going to take it on needing over $800,000 in repairs."
Ward 5 Councillor Gord Highet went one step further, and encouraged staff to come up with a long-term plan to both fund and maintain township-owned properties.
"We need a long-term vision of how we are going to maintain these properties. What do we plan to do with them? How are we going to maintain them? We need to have a vision or goal for the asset and work the budget around that, not the other way around," said Councillor Highet.
Later, when Councillor Mantle proposed ongoing discussions throughout the year regarding the future maintenance of township facilities, it was met with great enthusiasm from Councillor Highet.
"It'll take us almost the entire year to get through all of our assets," commented Councillor Highet.
It was later noted by several councillors that the municipal portion is only one part of the larger tax bill.
Under the current funding model, the municipal portion of the tax bill accounts for approximately 20 per cent. The Durham District School Board receives 23 per cent of the tax levy, while the Region of Durham receives the remaining 57 per cent, of which approximately half is dedicated to the Durham Regional Police Service.
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