Readers who get their news from sources other than this one and who have a keen eye for numbers, may notice that we are reporting an increase of 4.5% in the Frontenac County budget, while official releases from the County itself and reports in other papers will peg the increase at 3.9%.
Are we looking at the same documents?
Yes, we are. The numbers we use in the Frontenac News are provided to us by the Frontenac County treasury department and they are the same numbers members of Council see and anyone from the public can see as well by going to the frontenaccounty.ca website and navigating to the council agenda directory.
The difference is one of interpretation. It is our policy to base our budget reporting on the amount of money that will be collected from ratepayers through taxation. This is reported in budgets under the heading Tax Levy. In 2018 that levy (subject to approval this week) is $9,775 million dollars, up from $9.35 million in 2017, a 4.5% increase
There is no disagreement between the News and Frontenac County on that point.
But the Frontenac County treasury department deducted $56,000 from their total, which was enough to bring the increase below 4%.
They did not invent that $56,000. $56,000 is the estimated increase in revenue resulting from property assessment growth in Frontenac County this year
While it is true that assessment growth means there is more collective wealth to tax, that has nothing to do with the budget itself.
In the case of Frontenac County, the money they requisition is charged to the townships, not the ratepayers directly. When the townships complete their own budgets, they add in the county levy and the education levy and come up with a total increase, which is then divided out among taxpayers on the basis of the assessed value of each property.
The whole matter can be very complicated, and for this reason we stay away from it and base our reporting on the bottom line in the budget documents.
As we have said in the past, for local politicians who approve county and township budgets we ask only that they do their best to ensure that the services we pay for are delivered effectively, and that increases in spending are justified based on maintaining service levels or providing new services that are of general benefit to us all.
The question we ask of Frontenac County Council members is the following; are we getting value for the $9,775,000 that we are going to pay in 2018?
There will, after all, be an election before the next county budget is approved.