Town Council to approve 2019 budget with 0.54 percent residential tax hike

January 28, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Baker

Sticking true to its word, Orangeville’s new council meticulously picked apart the municipality’s 2019 budget and appears poised to implement the lowest tax increase in many years.

During budget deliberations, which took place at Town Hall on Monday and Tuesday (Jan. 21 and 22), Council voted largely in solidarity to shave around $760,000 off of its operating budget and cut approximately $215,000 from its capital budget to leave local residents facing a potential 0.54 percent tax increase for 2019. For the average home assessed at around $363,000, that would be an increase of approximately $16.53. 

With all seven members of Council, in the lead-up to last year’s municipal election, talking about the need to usher in a new era of fiscal responsibility at Town Hall, Mayor Sandy Brown was encouraged to see this new group put their words into action this week.

“I’m delighted by what I’ve seen these past couple of nights,” Mayor Brown told the Citizen. “We seem to have achieved a sense of collaboration and I’m really happy that common sense seems to be prevailing here. It’s evident there’s a lot of knowledge and a lot of experience here on this Council. There has been a lot of homework done in the build-up to these meetings.”

Mayor Brown went on record to highlight the work put in by Councillor Grant Peters, while also reserving special praise for Councillors Joe Andrews and Debbie Sherwood, whose experience in municipal matters, he says, really helped Council as a whole during budget deliberations.

Looking back on the budget, Orangeville, right now, is looking at a total budget of approximately $56 million, with operating costs estimated to run just north of $46 million and capital expenditures slated to come in at just under $10 million. On the operating side, the municipality is projecting revenues of about $10.1 million and an estimated 1.24 percent growth in assessment, which should add just over $433,000 to Town coffers. All in all, for 2019, the Town is estimating a net tax levy requirement of just over $35 million for the year.

On the capital side, the Town is projecting a net tax levy requirement of $2.7 million, with revenues and other funding sources covering around $7.3 million of the budget. 

The Town’s draft budget, which was presented to Council by former Treasurer Marc Villeneuve back in December, had initially called for a 4.13 percent tax levy increase, with municipal spending slated for a $1.44 million increase in 2019. Following CAO Ed Brennan’s presentation on Monday, Coun. Todd Taylor quickly tabled a motion that would eliminate almost half of that amount.

He proposed the Town trim $350,000 by halving its annual contribution from the operating budget to the capital budget and municipal reserves. He also asked that $136,000 left over from the renovations to Council Chambers be moved from the tax levy and instead have the amount paid in full from reserves. Further, he recommended Council take advantage of approximately $308,000 in unallocated surplus funds and use that money to help pay down municipal debt.

“Orangeville’s current level of reserves are at an acceptable level for a town of our size. Orangeville’s current level of debt is also at an acceptable level. Orangeville’s taxation rate is currently one of the highest in Ontario, I’d like to reduce the tax levy,” Coun. Taylor stated. “The implementation of these decisions will save $794,000 in 2019.” 

There was some discussion over a proposed 2.2 percent pay increase for non-unionized Town Staff, a move that would cost the town $262,639 in 2019, with Coun. Debbie Sherwood noting she would like to see the raise lowered to a flat two percent. While the motion was seconded by Deputy Mayor Andy Macintosh, Coun. Taylor warned against such a move.

“I don’t agree with this submission. Out of respect, while the Town of Orangeville is over-taxed, I don’t think this is an area we should be looking into. I worry about the staff we have now. We just lost a treasurer. We can argue that it may not have been over money and it might have been over lifestyle, we don’t know,” Coun. Taylor said. “I don’t think 2.2 percent is unreasonable. It’s below inflation. It’s a touchy subject when we start to talk about things that affects someone’s livelihood. I don’t think we should treat staff in this way.”

In the end, Council voted to approve the 2.2 percent raise.

Council eliminated another $22,000 from the budget by refusing to sign off on a new municipal welcome video ($4,000) and lights to run along the fountain at the median on Broadway ($18,000). They decided to bring forward a $75,000 expense planned for 2020 to this year to pay for a Recreation Master Plan for Orangeville, an important decision according to Coun. Taylor with decisions soon having to be made over the future of Tony Rose Arena.

Elsewhere, Council upped the annual contributions to community grants from $35,000 to $61,050, with 10 organizations, including Orangeville Blues & Jazz Festival, Dufferin County Cultural Resource Circle and the Orangeville Food Bank receiving some level of financial support. 

In what was something of a surprising twist, Council voted unanimously to remove $100,000 earmarked for the hiring of a consultant to review the looming OPP costing proposal the Town requested in December.

“I believe firmly this group (Council) can make this decision on its own, with consultation with citizens, staff, the Orangeville Police Service and OPP,” Coun. Taylor said. 

Heading into Tuesday night’s capital budget debate, Town CAO Ed Brennan noted there were 74 items for Council to consider in the 2019 budget. While the Town projected to spend around $10.1 million on various projects this year, the municipality’s five-year plan calls for $68 million in investments between now and 2023. Big ticket items over the next five years include a new fire hall ($8 million in 2020), a new elevator and front desk reconstruction at an undeclared municipal facility ($2.5 million in 2021) upgrades to Tony Rose Arena ($2.3 million in 2023) and various multi-million dollar road reconstruction products. 

In total, Council removed, or cut back on, four capital projects slated for this year. Town staff asked for $75,000 to renovate the basement at Town Hall, with showers, a new lunch room, storage and additional office space to be included. After initially denying the request, Council instead voted to dedicate $40,000 towards the project, with some members questioning the necessity of installing showers.

They also committed $80,000 towards a complete website overhaul, which fell $40,000 short of the $120,000 staff had requested. A member of the Town’s IT department, Dan Benotto, explained why a new website would come in at such a substantial cost.

“What we’re looking at is not just a website redesign, we’re looking at going to a web-based application. While we want to have a website that gives a basic delivery of services and looks great, we’re looking to move towards and implementing a more advanced level of programming,” Mr. Benotto said.

Elsewhere, Council decided to postpone a decision on $25,000 worth of upgrades slated for a multi-purpose asphalt pad at Karen Court until next year, and completely eliminated $160,000 requested to pave four municipal parking lots in town. The surfaces   at Fendley, Rotary, Idlewyld and Princess of Wales parks, are all, currently, gravel. Doug Jones, the Town’s General Manager of Infrastructure Services, noted paving at  Fendley and Rotary parks would help municipal staff maintain the sites during the winter. As of a bylaw signed off in 2017, the Town now allows overnight winter parking at Fendley and Rotary parks in the winter. The program has been popular and both sites see a reasonable amount of traffic, which is a big reason for this request, Mr. Jones said. 

“The parking lots are fine the way they are and, to be honest, I want the $160,000 back,” Coun. Taylor stated.

Coun. Peters asked that staff consider installing a permeable solution at the sites, rather than simply paving with asphalt, a motion that was supported unanimously by Council. It’s expected money will be set aside for the project in 2020. 

Of the projects that were approved, three were major road reconstructions. The Town has committed $1.2 million to the redevelopment of Little York Street., $684,000 for reconstruction of Faulkner Street between Elizabeth Street and Westminster lane, and $525,000 for work to be completed on Gifford Street. Money was also set aside for bridge rehabilitation projects on Dawson Road ($269,000) and Tideman Drive ($217,000). $2.6 million was dedicated to various water and wastewater projects, while close to $400,000 was set aside for various upgrades at Town Hall. 

In terms of major vehicle and equipment purchases, Council agreed to fund a new lawnmower ($160,000), street power sweeper ($430,000), three trucks and one police cruiser ($275,000) and a loader ($240,000).

One project that remained up in the air was a $1 million upgrade project to the splash pad and play structure at Harvey Curry Park. The Town was looking to finance that project, and as such it’s approval will have no impact on the municipal tax levy. Mr. Brennan informed the Citizen following Tuesday’s meeting, which ran until 11 p.m., that the budget would likely be approved in full next Monday (Jan. 28).

Reflecting on close to eight hours of discussion over two nights, Mayor Brown said he was pleased with the outcome and commended Town Staff, as well as Council, for its role in soon delivering what he called a “fantastic” budget. 

“Since becoming mayor, I’ve heard a lot of people saying they have had to leave this town because they can’t continue to deal with the tax increases. It’s particularly difficult hearing that from our seniors and people that have lived in this community for many, many years. It’s our hope that this budget will represent something of a break,” Mr. Brown said. 

While he was impressed with what Council was able to accomplish in its first budget, he admitted there was still much work to do over the coming years.

“How we got to be the most highly taxed town in Ontario, there are a lot of layers to that onion and we have to continue to peel them back. We’re going to have a railway debate coming up. The potential OPP windfall could be huge. There are some real positive things coming down the pipeline,” Mr. Brown said. 

“But looking back on this process the past couple of nights, we went through the budgets line by line and identified several expenses we thought were superfluous and we have dealt with them. Town Staff deserve credit too – they probably watched the election campaigns and realized that a new council would be scrutinizing things closely. I think they did a good job of tightening their belts and making sure they entered this process with the right attitude.”

For more information on the Town of Orangeville’s 2019 operating and capital budgets, visit

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