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Orangeville Council approves 1.5 percent increase to local tax levy

December 20, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Baker

Some Orangeville residents’ tax bills will go up in 2020, while some others’ will likely go down as a result of Council approving a 1.5 percent increase to the net tax levy on Monday evening (Dec. 16). 

Moving swiftly to approve its 2020 budget, Council gave the nod to a consolidated budget of approximately $60 million – up from $56 million in 2019. Operating expenses are slated to come in at $40.6 million, with an additional $3 million to be transferred to municipal reserves, and $2.6 million to be transferred to the capital budget. Revenues for the year are expected to top out at just under $9.7 million, with growth over the past 12 months bolstering Town coffers by $480,000. In total, the Town expects to bring in $36.6 million in taxes in 2020 to pay for the wide array of services and projects planned for next year.

When looking at the impact this latest budget will have on taxpayers’ wallets, the ‘average’ household in Orangeville, with a property valued at $363,000, will see an increase of around $46 on next year’s tax bill. However, according to a news release distributed by the Town of Tuesday, the median household will likely see a decrease in the Town portion of their tax bill in 2020.

“If the changes in your property value are higher than the median change in your property class, your taxes payable may be higher than the approved property tax increase. Similarly, if the changes to your property value are lower relative to the median change in your class, you may see a reduction in your taxes payable,” the release states.

The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) helps to determine how much a household will pay in property taxes year over year. The organization is responsible for assessing the value of properties across Ontario, with that valuation serving as the basis for property tax rates over a four-year period. The last MPAC assessment was carried out in 2016, with a new assessment planned for 2020. 

Speaking about the budget on Monday, Mayor Sandy Brown said Town staff has done an “excellent job” in putting together a budget that proposes an increase less than inflation in 2020.

“I’m quite happy with what we’ve come out with. Right now, cost of living increase is sitting at around two percent, so hats off to staff for coming in under that amount,” Mayor Brown said. “Going through the document, there were some savings to be made, some things in there that were more wants than needs, so we were able to trim some things out.”

He added, “At the end of the day, I think the people who are paying taxes will probably be thankful that we’ve been able to keep (the tax increase) as low as we have.”

Of those projects to be removed from the original budget proposed by staff was a digital sign slated to go in at the Town’s visitor information centre on Buena Vista Drive ($108,000), a plan to convert the current BMX Park into a pump track ($36,000), as well as a plan to rejuvenate the building that was once the Outdoor Lion’s Pool, located in Idylwyld Park on Second Avenue, for $45,000. 

Numerous projects slated for Tony Rose Arena were also kyboshed, for a total of $18,500, while plans to purchase new lifeguard chairs for the pool at Alder Recreational Centre for $16,000 were cancelled. 

In total, $152,000 was shaved from the capital budget. That allowed Council to allocate funds to some other areas. Following a recommendation by Coun. Grant Peters, Council voted in favour of paying for a metal roof at Orangeville’s animal shelter for a cost of around $50,000, while $10,000 was set aside to transition the Town to a three-stream waste separation system at all municipal buildings in town. Elsewhere, an additional $79,000 was set aside to complete the Broadway brick rehabilitation project, between Wellington and John streets, for a total cost of close to $1 million. 

Taking a detailed look at the Town’s operating budget, department by department, the Orangeville Police Service once again comes in as the most expensive line item in 2020. At just under $8.3 million, OPS makes up 23 percent of the Town’s operating budget in 2020. Next in line is the public works department, which is slated to spend $4.9 million (13 percent), followed by the Orangeville Fire Department, coming in at $3.8 million (10 percent). 

Other departments that expect to breach the $1 million mark in 2020 include finance ($1.3 million), information technology ($1.1 million), library services ($1.8 million), facilities ($2.1 million) and recreation and events ($1.2 million).

The Town’s 2020 capital budget is currently slated at $15.2 million. The big ticket item is the Orangeville Fire Hall. The Town has set aside $3 million in 2020 for the project, which Ray Osmond, the Town’s General Manager of Community Services, says will fund design work, and the purchase of any land that becomes available within the next year that could serve as a potential home for the new building.

While Council as a whole is currently undecided on whether to move forward with building a new fire hall, a project that is currently slated to cost in the region of $10 million, Mr. Osmond, and CAO Ed Brennan noted it was a good idea to set aside the money now.

“This project has been on the books for a few years now. If this budget is approved, it will allow staff in 2020 to do all the initial work that needs to be done. As has been said before, we need to find a new location, we would be coming back to Council before moving forward with design. My fear is, if we keep delaying this project, it’s only going to cost more and more. Five years out, this will cost a lot more than it’s going to cost next year,” Mr. Brennan stated.

The preference of Council, it would seem, would be negotiating with Credit Valley Conservation to see if the Authority would be open to allowing the Town to expand the current fire hall, located on Dawson Road. Since the facility lies within a flood plain, CVC has, in years past, refused to entertain the idea. Coun. Grant Peters noted on Monday that CVC is in the process of updating its flood plain model and analysis, potentially opening the door to redeveloping the current fire facility. Coun. Peters noted that study would be complete by March. 

Other significant capital projects on the books for 2020 include a new Echo Chill system for Alder Recreation Centre ($2 million), a new fire truck ($800,000), and a plan to “completely digitize” the Town ($325,000). 

“That’s right up there amongst the most important things we’re doing in this budget. For a long time, our website has been poor, communication and connection to residents has been poor, and internal communication between departments has been poor,” Mayor Brown said. “We’ve hired an organization called eSolutions, who will be developed a brand new website, a new Town app.”

He added, “This time next year, we’re hoping that residents will be able to pull up an Orangeville app on their smart phone and find out where the sidewalk plow is in town, or where the snowplow is. We want residents to be able to see where these things are, and what’s happening after a major winter event.”

Mayor Brown noted the app, and new website, should be up and running in 2020. 

The budget was approved by Mayor Brown, Deputy Mayor Andy Macintosh and Councillors Joe Andrews, Debbie Sherwood, Grant Peters and Lisa Post. Coun. Todd Taylor was the lone vote in rejecting the budget. 

In explaining his position, Coun. Taylor said he did not feel comfortable voting in favour of a budget that would bring more debt to the Town. 

“Going back to the police vote, one of the main things I had an issue with was debt. That is my issue here again. I’m fundamentally opposed to debt. I don’t live my life that way, and I don’t think the Town should live that way,” Coun. Taylor said. “I will not vote for debt. I understand the rationale, but I will not vote for it.”

When asked how he would suggest the Town pay for expensive, necessary projects without drastically increasing the tax levy, Coun. Taylor said he’d like to see the town-owned Humber lands, located off Veteran’s Way, sold. In total, there is approximately 15 acres of usable land on the site, which has been loosely valued between $8 million and $10 million.



         

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