| Apr 03, 2008

Feature Article - April 3, 2008

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Feature Article -April 3, 2008 Municipal Budgets by Jeff GreenCentral Frontenac Budget Deliberations Continue

Councilors are going over small and large budget items in marathon sessions at the Oso Hall in Sharbot Lake this week, hoping to trim down a projected tax increase in Central Frontenac this year.

Last month, staff presented council with a budget increase of 5.4% in the municipal tax rate.

By April 1, staff had made some cuts to bring the increase down to 3.9%

Council has been working towards eliminating another $100,000 from the budget, which would bring it down to a 2.4% overall increase over last year.

If they succeed in that task, the taxes paid for a property valued at $150,000, for example, would be just under $2,140 in Central Frontenac.

The township received a grant of $1,596,263 as the result of the recent provincial budget, and that money is being put towards an aggressive road construction program. The funding is part of a province-wide, one- time roads and bridges grant from the province.

Central Frontenac Council will continue working on their budget later this month with a view toward finalizing it before May 1.

North Frontenac Ratepayers: Saved by the Grant?

North Frontenac Council has been working on their 2008 budget for months, and had reluctantly concluded they would have to bring in a hefty tax increase this year.

The increase came about in order to continue a maintenance program on Hwys. 509/506. In 1998 the township received $3.5 million along with responsibility for the roads, and has spent $350,000 each year on a paving and maintenance program. The money is now gone.

As a result, the township share of the municipal budget was set to be increased by 17.55% this year, and even when mitigated by a cut in the county rate, the total tax rate was up by 8.93% over 2007.

This would result in a North Frontenac homeowner whose house is assessed at $150,000 paying $2030 in 2008, up from $1863 in 2007.

Then, the township received news of a $1,362,831 grant from the province of Ontario.

If only a portion of this money, $350,000 (the amount budgeted for maintenance of 506/509) is used to offset the 2008 budget, that same $150,000 property owner would pay $1915.

North Frontenac Council is holding a special meeting today, April 3, to revisit the budget in light of the new funding.

South Frontenac Budget Nears Completion

South Frontenac councilors had their last crack at the township’s 2008 budget on Monday evening, March 31. The budget will be up for discussion at a public meeting later this month before being approved.

The decisions with the most impact on the budget were made back in January, when a five-year road maintenance and upgrading program was approved. As a result, the 2008 budget will have different impacts for ratepayers of the four districts that make up the township, with the net result being a flattening out of the tax rate overall in anticipation of the amalgamation of the roads department next year.

Ratepayers in Bedford will see the largest increase in their taxes this year: 4.6%. 2008 is the first year of an aggressive paving program, which will see many of the arterial roads in the district being paved by 2012.

In Portland district, the tax rate will be up by 3.3%, and in Loughborough it will be up 1.4%. Storrington district ratepayers will see a tax decrease of 1.6%.

The net effect of all these changes is that ratepayers in all districts will be paying almost identical amounts in 2008.

Using a property valued at $150,000 as an example, taxes in Bedford will be $1780.67 in '08; in Portland they will be $1780.57, in Loughborough $1789.48 and in Storrington $1797.15.

These figures include charges of $150 for garbage pick-up in three of the districts. In Bedford, where residents bring their own garbage to dumpsites, the garbage fee is only $20.

The township learned last Friday that they will be receiving $2.5 million in one-time infrastructure funding from the province, but with the details not yet available, council decided not to include the money in their budget estimates for 2008.

Public works Manager Mark Segsworth said that a $300,000 application for funding to complete the Rutlege Road bridge under another provincial program, the Municipal Infrastructure Investment Initiaitive MIII, has been turned down, so some of the $2.5 million might go to that project. Engineering work is already being done for a major repair on the Loughborough Lake bridge, slated for 2009 or 2010. That project is expected to cost over $1 million, so the township should have no trouble finding uses for the new provincial money, which is earmarked for road and bridge repairs.

Among other initiatives in the budget is a three-year, $1.5 million salt containment plan, with the construction for three salt domes being anticipated. This work will not have an effect on the property tax rate because it is being funded through a federal gas tax rebate that the township will be receiving every year.

Segsworth revealed that the winter maintenance budget proved inadequate this year, as the result of an unprecedented number of storms. Fortunately there was a $270,000 winter maintenance reserve fund to draw upon, which was entirely depleted this year, along with an additional $8,000.

In 2009, the winter road maintenance budget will be the same as the actual costs for this past year.

“I can’t see us getting a winter next year that is worse than the one that is almost over,” said Segsworth, “and if we have an easier winter next year then we will be able to build up that reserve again.”

The fire budget had a 0% increase, thanks in part to a transfer of $30,000 from a fire salary reserve fund, which had risen to $100,000 in recent years.

The most contentious issues in the budget meeting had little impact on the overall thrust of the document. Council remains divided on a plan to hire a third full-time building inspector when the contract for a temporary worker runs out in May.

In a 5-4 vote, council approved the building department budget, which had a 0% increase. They will have another chance to debate the hiring of a third full-time inspector in May, however, as the budget approval only put the money in place. The decision to hire or not will come back to council.

Strorrington councilor John Filion also took exception to a plan to have the bylaw officer actively search out people who do not purchase tags for their pet dogs, which could include home visits.

“You three are communists,” he said, pointing across the table to Councilors Hahn, Hicks and McPhail, who had voiced their support for the idea.

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