County holds tax increase to 0.65%

March 18, 2015   ·   0 Comments

While Orangeville councillors are still toiling over the Town’s 2015 budget, Dufferin County Council last Thursday approved their budget, giving county homeowners a tax rate increase of just 0.65 percent, or the equivalent of $8.67 extra on the average assessment of $338,000 for this year.

The decision, however, did not come without its complications. Don MacIver, Mayor of Amaranth, put forward three separate proposals designed to lower the tax impact on residents.

The first was a motion to see $100,000 removed from the County Planning Budget, leaving just $15,000 for the year 2015.

“We don’t have an Official Plan from the Ministry yet, and we know that Orangeville and Mono will be looking after their own planning amendments,” said Mayor MacIver. “The workload coming from the remaining municipalities is extremely small, maybe one or two a year, so there is no need to rush out and hire a planner when a contract planner could fulfil those needs.”

His other suggestions included looking for an additional 0.5 percent in year-round savings, on top of the previously mandated 1 percent staff would be asked to find, as well as moving forward with the hospital donation, but utilizing an additional amount being put into reserves at just under $400,000, so there would be no impact to local taxpayers.

While County councillors began to speak in favour of the year-round savings, County Treasurer Alan Selby warned that finding these savings would be very difficult for staff.

“We already have a suggestion of finding one percent in efficiency savings, totalling about $308,000,” said Mr. Selby.

“That was about all we could come up with; this year has only 10 months left in it, so finding even that one percent is going to be difficult.”

Melancthon Mayor Darren White also spoke against requiring 1.5 percent of in-year savings to be found, warning that certain departments are already cutting it close.

“I know that Community Services is running awfully close to the edge, so asking to find another 0.5 percent is not going to happen,” he said.

“I’m not going to support sending it back to pawn off on staff.”

Despite both Mr. Selby and Mayor White’s concerns however, the motion was passed, meaning that currently, the actual amounts to help decrease the budget do not yet exist.

The motion to reduce the County Planning Budget also carried, but with a rather drastic change.

During the conversation, due to the County having to act on certain issues, $50,000 has already been spent towards items that fall under the County’s planning, leaving only $61,000 left. An amendment to change the motion to remove $50,000 from the remaining budget, leaving $11,000 for any additional in-year issues that would arrive, was passed.

The hot topic of the budget discussion once again surrounded the issue of contributing to the $16-million capital project of Headwaters Health Care Centre, with Council clearly divided on the issue, even with the suggestion that the donation would not have to affect taxpayers. Currently, $390,000 in surplus was designated to be put in the Public Works reserves to assist with any possible extra infrastructure improvements throughout the year.

“My position on the hospital donation is well known,” said Mayor White. “I’m a little surprised at what I am hearing. If we have $390,000 in surplus, that’s fantastic. But there are also a lot of roads that need work. In Melancthon, we have the only stretch of County road that is dirt. If we give that money away, I have to tell people that their road can’t be paved because the funds were donated instead.”

Ken McGhee, Deputy Mayor of Mono, felt that while roads are a concern, so is providing funding for the hospital, as it is usually one of the driving factors of someone’s decision to move to an area.

“I don’t know of any community that can expect to survive and grow, have businesses and residents move in without good hospitals,” said Deputy Mayor McGhee. “To say we will not fund the hospital in my opinion is wrong. The hospital will survive, but we are sending the wrong message to the community, that we don’t value the key elements required to have a good quality of living.”

Orangeville Mayor Jeremy Williams felt making the donation would be the County’s way of bending to the Province’s continued attempt to cut costs to health care.

“I hesitate to bring this up, because everyone wants good hospitals,” he said. “The Province is trying to cut costs, and it is unfair that we are funding the Province’s reduction program. If the Province wishes to streamline health care and have the line go in one door and straight out the other, they should pay.”

The motion to make the donation failed in a vote of 16-15, with Mulmur Mayor Paul Mills, Melancthon Mayor White, Orangeville Mayor Williams, Shelburne Mayor Ken Bennington, East Garafraxa Mayor Guy Guardhouse, Shelburne Deputy Mayor Geoff Dunlop, and Mulmur Deputy Mayor Heather Hayes voting against the donation, while Mono Mayor Laura Ryan, Grand Valley Mayor Steve Soloman, Amaranth Deputy Mayor Jane Aultman, Amaranth Mayor Don MacIver, Orangeville Deputy Mayor Warren Maycock, and Mono Deputy Mayor McGhee voted in favour of the donation.

Shortly after, County Council voted in favour of the budget as it was, finalizing the 2015 Dufferin County Budget at a tax levy of 2.6 percent, and an impact on the average Dufferin County homeowners with a property assessed at $338,000 of just under $9, resulting in a total of $1,345 on the county portion of their tax bill this year.

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