MORRISBURG – South Dundas council met February 22 for its second round of budget deliberations and decided that a 5.5 per cent tax rate increase is where they want to be.
Based on work done by staff since the first budget meeting in early February, staff left council to cut $36,230 from the draft budget to meet the 5.5 per cent target.
“Staff have done what we feel is reasonable to cut that levy,” said deputy treasurer Shawn Mason.
South Dundas deputy mayor Marc St. Pierre said: “In the ideal world, we’d all like to get the lowest tax rate possible,” adding, “If we see something along the way that could get us to 5 per cent, even better.”
Through discussions and minor changes to less than a handful of line items, council was quickly able to reduce the tax rate increase to as low as a 5.36 per cent tax rate increase.
However, upon hearing that number they soon looked to add funds back into the budget.
Eventually council ended up deciding that they would direct staff to add funds back into the budget to keep the rate increase at 5.5 per cent.
The funds will be added into the community grants and donations portion of the budget which will give council $107,500 to hand out to applicants as they see fit. (The list of applicants and the funds requested has not been made public.)
The biggest budget cut decided on by council was the Food Cycler program which provided a savings of about $37,000.
Reflecting on the budget, South Dundas mayor Jason Broad said: “Things are just costing us more.”
“Short of reducing services or cancelling services, this is just what services in South Dundas cost in today’s world,” said South Dundas councillor Cole Veinotte.
Councillor Danielle Ward, looking at the year-over-year increase between last year’s budget and this year’s budget commented that it is about the same as the current rate of inflation. “If we want to cut anywhere, we’ll have to start cutting services and I don’t think that’s something that I’ve heard from our tax base that they want to see. I think we’re being smart and responsible with this increase.”
“We’re not spending more. It’s costing us more,” said South Dundas deputy mayor Marc St. Pierre. “And, in my opinion, there’s a difference. There’s a clear difference.”
“We have a significant per cent of our residents who aren’t meeting the living wage threshold today,” added Mayor Broad. “For those residents every dollar counts. But there’s other members of the population who are okay. They want services and they have incomes to offset that. We are trying to do the best we can for all. I think this is a good budget.”
The South Dundas municipal budget will be finalized in March once council approves the budget bylaw at the March 13 meeting.