Budget process begins in Orangeville, 1.53 percent tax hike proposed

October 27, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Pickford

For all intents and purposes, Orangeville Council appears to have come to an agreement regarding its 2018 Operating Budget, although it cannot officially be passed until the Orangeville Police Services Board submits its annual budget next month.

Meeting at Town Hall on Monday and Tuesday this week to hammer out details relating to the budget, Council were informed by Treasurer Marc Villeneuve that a net tax levy increase of 2.53 percent would be required to offset costs in the proposed operating budget. With growth expected to cover at least 1 percent of that, a proposed tax increase of 1.53 percent was put to Council. Based on a median property assessment of $363,000, Mr. Villeneuve the average tax bill will go up approximately $45 in 2018.

That was welcome news to most members of Council, who thanked Mr. Villeneuve for his work in putting together a “strong” budget once again this year. Mayor Jeremy Williams particularly was impressed, stating a 1.53 percent increase after growth “pretty much” reflects inflation over the past 12 months.

Overall, the Town is slated to spend $37.8 million on its operating budget in 2018, up about $800,000 from last year. Almost $8.6 million of that total will be offset by municipal revenues, meaning the Town’s net operating expenses for the year should sit at a little over $29.2 million – a 1.88 percent increase from 2017.

Almost $5 million has been proposed to be transferred from the operating budget to both municipal reserves and the capital budget, taking the Town’s total net levy requirement up to $34.2 million. In his presentation Monday, Mr. Villeneuve also confirmed that water and wastewater rates will be going up in 2018, a move that will cost the average household an additional $42 a year.

In breaking down the budget, Mr. Villeneuve noted there were several things that would impact the Town’s coffers in 2018, most notably the impending change to Ontario’s minimum wage, which is slated to rise to $14 an year on Jan. 1. He expects that change will cost the Town an additional $360,000 in 2018.

The proposed budget set aside money to continue funding community groups and initiatives such as Theatre Orangeville ($35,000), Credit Valley Conservation ($313,000) and ongoing tree maintenance ($285,000).

Not included though are eight new full-time firefighters after Council decided it could not afford the added $800,162 expense in 2018. It has, however, committed to funding a new IT helpdesk technician position to the tune of $93,600. 21 and the Town’s 22 departments have requested at least $100,000 in funding for 2018, with six posting numbers of more than $1 million.

The Orangeville Police Service remains the Town’s largest expense, coming in at just over $8.2 million. More than $6.1 million has been set aside for Corporate Allocations, with $5 million allotted for Public Works. Fire Services comes in at $3.2 million, Recreation at $2.75 million and $1.85 million for Library Services.

Library services became a bit of a contentious issue on Monday as Coun. Nick Garisto questioned whether the library board really needed $200,000 over the next four years to replace its elevator, a point Coun. Don Kidd later picked up on.

“Didn’t we just have major upgrades and renovations done over at the library? Why wasn’t a new elevator included in those plans?” Coun. Kidd asked.

Coun. Scott Wilson noted that because there were so many other issues that needed addressing first, such as new washrooms, kids area and other general renovations, a new elevator wasn’t on the board’s radar. Now that they have a new, state-of-the-art facility, the board feels a new elevator, which will help with accessibility issues, should be a priority. Coun. Kidd then requested further information regarding a new position the library is asking for at a cost of $55,828 in 2018.

“Can somebody tell me what this cost covers?” Coun. Kidd said.

Mayor Williams involved himself in the conversation, cutting Coun. Kidd off to allow Deputy Mayor Warren Maycock to talk. Coun. Kidd took exception to this.

“We’re only an hour and 14 minutes into the budget debate and you’re already being rude,” Coun. Kidd said.

“I beg your pardon, Coun. Kidd, but that’s not the way it works. You don’t tell the chair who has the floor. That’s my job,” Mayor Williams said.

Coun. Kidd retorted that he had informed the mayor he had two questions to ask and that he believes had any other Council member informed the mayor of such a thing, they would have been allowed to speak. Mayor Williams told Coun. Kidd he did not appreciate his comments or his tone, which irked Kidd even further.

“With all due respect Mr. Mayor, I don’t appreciate you coming to a budget meeting dressed as you are,” Kidd said, pointing to the mayor’s chosen attire of jeans and a t-shirt. “The rest of us put a shirt and tie on. I think it’s only appropriate the mayor does the same thing.”

The meeting fluttered to an uneventful end, leading into Tuesday’s capital budget meeting. Going through each department and item line by line, Mr. Villeneuve explained some of the larger ones he expects to see the municipality focus on in 2018. He said the Town was planning for approximately $59.1 million in capital investment over the next five years, starting with $8.3 million in 2018. Roughly $5.7 million of that will be funded through various funding sources, leaving a net tax levy of $2.6 million to be recovered from taxpayers.

While no items were officially voted on by Council, more than half of the capital budget is expected to be taken up by various Public Works projects, including the reconstruction of Second Avenue from First Street to Third Street (a $2.1 million cost).

One topic that did cause controversy was a proposed $180,000 upgrade to Town Hall, which Coun. Kidd labelled ridiculous given Council’s previous decision to deny the Fire Department eight additional full-time firefighters because of the cost.

“Council chambers is fine and functional, this isn’t necessary,” Coun. Kidd said.

He was further perplexed by a request for $60,000 to redesign the two public counters at Town Hall to help “improve service” according to staff.

“Quite honestly, something is wrong here. We’re hearing staff say they need $60,000 to redesign counters, but we as Council cannot hire firefighters, and I voted against that motion, because we don’t have the money,” Coun. Kidd said.

Council decided to end Tuesday’s meeting early and will reconvene for further budget discussions on Nov. 6.

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