MORRISBURG – South Dundas residential taxpayers can expect to see their property tax rate increase somewhere in the vicinity of 5.5 per cent this year.
‘Team South Dundas’ council sat down to one day (7 hours) of budget deliberations Friday, February 3, and at the end of the day directed staff to propose adjustments to bring the tax rate increase down to about 5.5 per cent from the 7.66 per cent increase laid out by staff in the original budget document. According to the executive summary, the 7.66 per cent increase proposed by staff supports a $15.9 million budget, offset by $7.5 million in revenue and an $8.4M tax levy including $50,000 worth of assessment growth.
In kicking off the budget meeting South Dundas mayor Jason Broad said, “Many believe this might be the hardest budget in years.” He added: “We can’t ignore inflation. It is happening.”
“We are facing a challenging time. We need to keep life affordable for our residents in 2023, but need to be mindful of the facts.”
With that, treasurer Lachlan McDonald started presenting his budget overview which explained that in this budget South Dundas is moving to a new model of setting aside funds for transfers to reserves for asset management. In this budget an additional two per cent is being transferred to reserves to build them up to start work towards meeting future asset management needs.
Treasurer McDonald said that the 40 year high inflation rates are targeting municipalities at this time, making this the hardest budget that the South Dundas treasury team has ever prepared.
This proposed budget represents the largest proposed increase in funds being collected from taxation in South Dundas’ history as it looks to go to taxpayers for $645,000 more than last year. That $645,000 increase is more than double the previous year’s increase of $278,000.
While council discussions did result in some cuts from the proposed budget like a long term grader lease and the purchase of a new farm tractor to handle snow clearing in one of the plazas, it also resulted in some additions to the budget like setting aside funds to start building towards an Iroquois street-scaping project and additional funds to support council donations and Dollar for Dollar Funding program requests.
After all of the heads of departments had presented their budgets and answered council’s questions, South Dundas deputy mayor Marc St. Pierre said: “I’d like to land on a tax rate closer to a 5.5 per cent increase.” He added that he sees the current inflation situation as the ‘rainy day’ that municipalities set aside reserves for so he proposed “tapping into reserves a little bit” to lower the rate.
South Dundas deputy treasurer Shawn Mason said that the proposed budget draws from reserves to offset the potential tax rate increase. But St. Pierre suggested taking even more once
South Dundas chief administrative officer Shannon Geraghty confirmed that South Dundas has “very healthy reserves. The healthiest in SDG.”
St. Pierre urged staff to “get creative” in meeting the target.
Geraghty told The Leader the proposed budget includes $175,000 from working reserves to offset the rate increase.
South Dundas councillor Cole Veinotte agreed with St. Pierre that a 5.5 per cent increase was a good target.
“If we cut it under 5 we’re only kidding ourselves,” said South Dundas councillor Tom Smyth.
“This budget is not flashy,” said South Dundas councillor Danielle Ward. “I was prepared to accept it as the staff presented it.”
Mayor Broad said that he too was prepared to accept it as presented. However, the majority of the council agreed with the 5.5 per cent target. “I’m pleased with where we ended up,” Broad said. “There’s a little more work to get it down.” To the staff he said, “You’re the experts. You’ve spent the time creating these budgets and spending them for 12 months of the year. We want you to tell us what it takes to deliver the service.”
With that direction, staff will return to council with an itemized list of cuts to achieve the target for approval.
No date was set for the follow up meeting.