Town’s budget available for scrutiny before final consideration; ‘Average’ homeowner would pay additional $72.33 in municipal taxes

Hours and hours and hours were spent by town councillors and staff last week to determine how much property taxes will have to increase

Hours and hours and hours were spent by town councillors and staff last week to determine how much property taxes will have to increase in 2014.

In the end, the draft budget, approved for circulation to residents and businesses, shows owners of an average property valued at $300,000 last year, would pay an additional $72.33 for the municipal side of their property tax bill.

That amount could vary depending on several items. The first is the change in assessment (property value) from year-to-year. It was estimated at a 1.8 per cent increase based on preliminary assessment numbers for 2014. But that percentage will vary from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. The other reason for an increase is the decision of the province on the education tax portion of the bill. The province sets that rate in the spring, and until then it’s impossible to calculate the exact increase on the total bill.

The budget, approved in principle by councillors includes an increase of 2.69 per cent in the mill rate (tax rate). It also includes an increase in the recreation levy of just over $1 per month which will raise an additional 25 per cent ($100,000) for recreation projects.

The non-residential (commercial and industrial) tax rate was frozen at last year’s amount (see separate story).

Taxpayers have the next three weeks to comment on the budget before councillors revisit it at the Feb. 10 meeting. In the meantime, they’re planning a coffee party to hear thoughts of residents and business owners. It will be at Waves Coffee Shop from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Jan. 25.

“Everything is still on the table,” said Mayor Sean McIntyre, near the end of council’s decision-making session Saturday. “We really want to communicate our decisions, they’re not set in stone yet.”

Over three nights last week, councillors heard from various department staff on their budgets and requests to add additional projects.

Then Friday night and through the day Saturday, they debated specific projects, watching the property tax increase go up and down based on what they decided. Some projects made it while most others that had low priorities and had already been struck during staff scrutiny didn’t return to the budget.

Shortly after noon, the increase sat at 3.45 per cent and the average increase, based on the above $300,000 property, would have been $96.94.

Councillor Matt Prete indicated he’d like to see the increase under three per cent and others agreed, tackling the numbers one more time.

They shaved the cost of several projects and dropped one, trimming $64,000. This took the increase down to 2.69 per cent, a figure they were happy with.