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Budget Time for the Region

It’s been a financially difficult year across the region for many, and municipal governments have been no exception.

Despite revenue losses in 2020 from a lack of user fees at community facilities and increased expenses to help combat the effects of Covid-19, staff across the four townships of Woolwich, Wellesley, Wilmot and North Dumfries have said they’re trying to keep tax increases low.

In the coming weeks, The Waterloo Region Rural Post will go into depth about each township’s financial plan for the coming year and how it will affect residents.

In a memo written to the Township of Wilmot Dec. 14, Patrick Kelly, director of corporate services and treasurer, recommended the town maintain its practice of of increasing taxes by only the inflationary cost-of-living adjustment for the year. For Wilmot, that will mean a tax increase of 1.9 per cent for 2021.

That increase will mean an extra $19, bringing the total to $999 for the average home on the township portion of the tax bill, according to staff.

Kelly’s recommendations to the township also highlight the necessity to keep taxes, fees and charges low “to provide financial and economic relief to residents and businesses” because of the fallout many are experiencing due to Covid-19 shutdowns.

Despite that outlook, recommendations for Wilmot also include the introduction of a special dedicated infrastructure levy of two per cent. The proceeds of that levy will be put into the township’s three infrastructure reserve funds for equipment, facilities and transportation.

Kelly says the need for a dedicated reliable source of funding for town infrastructure projects was highlighted during the pandemic as internal sources of funding were shown to be inadequate to handle repair and rehabilitation projects.

Budget meetings in Wilmot are continuing, with the tax increase scheduled to be confirmed at a budget advisory committee meeting on Feb. 1.

The Township of Woolwich is also aiming to keep its increase below the two per cent mark with a proposed increase of 1.5 per cent.

That increase will mean an additional $13.61 on the township portion of the tax bill for a total of $920.61 for a home with an assessed value of $409,400.

In the draft budget memo written Jan. 5, Richard Petherick, Director of Financial Services and Treasurer for the township said this year’s budget is shaping up “to be like no other budget in the history of the Township of Woolwich.”

Petherick says there is no part of the town left unaffected by Covid-19 and that will continue to be felt through much of 2021.

The report indicates the hardest hit area at the township is Recreation and Community Services, with a loss of income resulting from the closure of facilities and the cancellation of programming throughout much of 2020.

The budget in Wellesley was debated again on Jan 14, and is set to go to a final vote at a meeting scheduled for Feb. 9.

At a meeting on Jan. 12, the council of Township of North Dumfries voted to move $37,000 from the Covid Contingency Fund to allow for a year without a tax rate increase.

The township’s draft budget had previously been aiming for a 1.5 per cent tax increase, but councillors said they felt the township was in a good financial position and able to eliminate that increase by drawing on reserves.

Mayor Sue Foxton told council she was concerned that with another stay-at-home order hitting the province, she is concerned about potentially increasing jobless rates.

“I’m really concerned people are going to lose their homes,” she said. “I think this will send a strong message of compassion.”

Councillor Rod Rolleman said he thinks residents will understand that this year is an exception and will welcome a year without a tax increase.

“I just recall six years ago that this township was in a lot of trouble… we asked the residents to have faith in us,” he said. “I think it’s time to say ‘You were there when we had a hard time. You stood by us. Now we stand by you.”

Residents in Wellesley will see the highest tax increase of the four townships at 2.25 per cent for 2021, with an additional 0.5 per cent increase imposed for a special greening levy.

At a township meeting on Jan. 5, Treasurer Theresa Bisch said the special fund would allocate funds to green initiatives to help combat the climate crisis.

Both the 2021 capital and operating budgets for the township were approved unanimously at that meeting.

The increase will mean a total township portion of the tax bill of about $1465 for a home with an assessed value of $525,000.

All the townships reported they were hoping to off-set lower tax rate increases with expected growth in the area.

 

Written by Elizabeth Bate

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