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Kawartha Lakes lowers tax increase to 3.58 percent with capital budget approval

DAN CEARNS The Standard

KAWARTHA LAKES: The City of Kawartha Lakes approved their 2024 capital budget, at a meeting on Tuesday, November 28th.

Coming into the budget deliberations session, the tax increase sat at 3.99 percent. This was down from where the budget was when it was presented in October which included a 4.56 percent tax increase at the time. This change was made, in part, because of uncommitted funds being applied to the budget,from the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund.

With a large focus on roads, Sara Beukeboom, the Director of Corporate Services, said, this budget shows “roads are the city’s biggest concern.”

During budget talks, one of the projects which was deferred was preliminary work on the Colborne Street, Angeline Street Intersection, projected to cost $1.3 million.

“We are currently doing an [Environmental Assessment (EA)],” Juan Rojas, the Director of Engineering and Corporate Assets explained. “I’ve been informedthe EA won’t be completed until [the middle of] next year. So, even if this work was approved, the city wouldn’t be in position to start the preliminary work until, [at] the earliest, 2025.”

Each councillor was also able to choose, at least, one road project, to add to the budget, with total costs of that coming to $828,000. Those projects are being financed by gas tax funds and the remaining infrastructure grant funding.

These road projects include: Horseshoe Crescent; Mary Street, from Alma Street to Cross Street in Omemee; Neals Drive and Manvers Drive, in Janetville; Bobcaygeon’s Mill Street; Anderson Drive; Shirley Anne Drive; Pleasantview Crescent; Golf Links Road; St. George Street; and the Loon Street Drainage system project.

“I figure everybody got something and we used almost $1 million,” Mayor Doug Elmslie said.

However, not every councillor loved the process, by which decision units were chosen this year.

“I think it’s unfortunate the way it’s played out, I’m just being honest,” Ward 5 Councillor, Eric Smeaton said. He also noted, “the councillor from Ward 5, who has the most used roads, by far in the whole city, has one tiny road as a decision unit.” Councillor Smeaton took exception to some councillors being able to add roads into the budget which were not discussed previously by council.

By the end of budget deliberations, the approved capital budget had a tax increase of 3.58 percent, as well as a 1.5 percent infrastructure levy. The budget was revised, from totalling $71.2 million down to $70.671 million.

“This comprehensive capital plan falls in step with our long-term goals. We're committed to maintaining affordable taxes for our residents, as we navigate the rapid growth we're experiencing. We're catching up on projects we had to postpone, putting more investment into roads than ever before, and ensuring our community thrives. Our staff did a great job in crafting a budget [which] is financially prudent and lowers the tax levy. I’m thankful to all Councillors for their determination to represent their constituents. Our lively discussions have brought forward new projects [which] will be well received by those we serve,” Mayor Elmslie wrote, in a statement.

Councillors looked to further chip away at the 3.58 percent tax increase during deliberations, on the operating and water and wastewater budgets, on Tuesday, December 5th, past The Standard’s press deadline.

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