$1M boost for Town reserves would mean 4.21% tax hike

March 3, 2015   ·   0 Comments

Orangeville Council, sitting as its Finance and Administration Committee, voted narrowly Monday night to add $1 million to the Town’s depleted capital reserves.

The move, if it remains in the 2015 capital budget and isn’t offset by reductions in the Town’s operating budget, would mean a 4.21 per cent hike in the Town’s portion of property tax bills – an increase of $106.81 in the tax on an “average” Orangeville residence assessed at $313,701.

This would not only put the budget at an increase beyond that originally proposed by town staff in early January, but also at a much higher tax rate increase than any other municipality in Dufferin, as well as higher than that provided in the proposed County budget.

At issue Monday was the Reserves account, which has been severely depleted by previous councils.  According to Councillor Sylvia Bradley, the Town’s reserves have been depleted so much that there is the possibility we are now sitting at the lowest level of reserves in the province.

“We’re currently sitting at about $5.8 million in reserves,” she said. “We should be at around $24 million. We’re at about four times less than what we should be. We have a big hill to climb just to get there. Many of [the other municipalities] have more than 60 per cent. We are one of the lowest, if not the lowest in Ontario.”

During the evening’s four-hour meeting, the Committee made a habit of separating multiple items from single recommendations to vote on them individually, except when it came to proponents of the amount to put toward reserves. Combined, the amounts recommended to add to the budget to be placed into reserves was over $1 million, which resulted in the increased tax rate.

Several residents spoke out at the meeting against this action, advising that with the many lower and moderate-income residents in town, especially those on fixed incomes, the taxpayers could not afford such a high increase, and begged council to reconsider.

“I’m disabled and looking after an elderly father,” said James Jackson. “If you increase taxes, I could lose my house. You have to take into consideration, there are seniors, there are young people, and there are people moving from city who are paying more in property taxes than they were before. The way this is coming across is you just want to pad your pockets.”

Mayor Jeremy Williams spoke against the motion, also advising that the Committee needs to take into consideration that there are families who could not afford such a large increase in taxes.

“What we’re doing now with our reserves is really future taxation,” said Mayor Williams. “We’re spending it now, because we may need it in the future. I support having reserves, but not at any additional cost. It’s going to impact the taxes substantially.”

He added that if it was possible to increase the amount going in by $1 million with only a small fraction of an impact on taxpayers, he would be all for it, but he couldn’t support it at the increase it would produce.

“I look around the chamber, and not wishing to comment on anyone in specific, but not everyone is as well to do as some around the table,” he said. “I don’t think some of us know what it’s like to be poor. Some people take months to save up an additional $100.”

The motion passed with Deputy Mayor Maycock and Councillors Sylvia Bradley, Scott Wilson and Gail Campbell voting in favour.

The budget talks will continue next Monday, March 9.

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