March 28, 2012

Local property taxes up 8.48 per cent

As published in The Erin Advocate

Town council unanimously approved its budget bylaw last week, thanking Wellington County for a low tax increase. This has allowed the town to raise extra revenue for road improvements without hitting residents with a large overall tax increase.

Based on estimates approved at the final budget meeting on March 7, Town taxes will increase by 8.48% for 2012. For an average house assessed at $363,750, that will mean an extra $74 per year on the town section of the tax bill, bringing the payment up to $946.

Most of that increase ($41) will go to an "infrastructure renewal" reserve fund, with $200,000 to be used mainly for improving roads.

The total property tax bill for an average house will now be $4,293. The Town budget accounts for 22% of that bill. The education tax, accounting for 18.8% of the bill, is up only 1.4% to an average of $804. The county tax, accounting for 59.2% of the bill, is up only 1.9% to an average of $2,543.

When these rates are blended in proportion, the overall increase is estimated at 3.19%, or an average of $133.

"We tried to keep the [county] tax increase down to give the lower tier municipalities more capacity," said Warden Chris White, who was visiting Erin council on a good will tour with senior county staff. "There's one taxpayer, so it's good if we can work together."

Councillor John Brennan offered his thanks to the county for the "budget room", and Mayor Lou Maieron said, "We get a lot for our tax dollars, so it is important to let people know."

The Town's total budget of $13.3 million is up almost 22 per cent compared to 2011, but increased revenue from grants, reserves, fees, permits and new debt have offset the tax requirements. Regular Town operations will cost $8.3 million, while capital projects will cost $5 million.

Levies for the Grand River and Credit Valley Conservation Authorities will cost the Town $135,804 this year (up 3.5%), and CVC got an extra grant of $5,000 towards the purchase of park lands in Erin.

Director of Finance Sharon Marshall noted that the budget only approves the first year of a five-year Capital Investment Plan for renewing local infrastructure, as required by the province. Council will have to consider the rest of the plan this year.

The Fire Department accounts for a large share of 2012 capital spending, with $1.5 million for the new Hillsburgh fire station, funded mainly by new debt. The total project cost will be about $2.2 million. There is also $408,700 for a new Hillsburgh pumper/rescue truck to replace a 1984 pumper, and $33,000 for a new pickup truck.

Reconstruction of bridge #2046 on the Fifth Line will cost $449,126, funded by Federal Gas Tax revenues. Reconstruction and resurfacing on the Erin/Halton Townline will cost $456,339, partially funded by the gas tax, reserves and development charges. Reconstruction of a section of the First Line will cost $175,000.

A new roads department truck and plow will cost $219,310 (half of which was paid last year), while repairs and painting of the Erin water tower will cost water ratepayers $110,000.

Completion of three watermain projects for $259,600 this year will get two-thirds funding from a provincial grant. Completion of the multi-year construction of the Hillsburgh Pumping Station has been allocated $769,208 in provincial funding.

Construction of the new Erin skatepark is in the budget for $100,000, with substantial fundraising, donations and grants offsetting the cost.

A sampling of other smaller projects includes:
• Shower tiles in the old dressing rooms at the Erin arena, $26,000;
• Computer hardware and software upgrades, $33,000
• Financial software, $25,000
• Streetlight improvements, $15,000
• Replacement of retaining walls, $52,875
• Trail system upgrades, $7,300