WELLINGTON NORTH - Council has unanimously agreed to bring down the proposed property tax increase of 2.4 per cent to two per cent by using the Ontario Community Infrastructure Funding (OCIF).
Coun. Sherry Burke initiated the conversation of bringing the tax increase down to two per cent at Monday’s council meeting as she noted that many are still struggling financially due to COVID.
Mayor Andy Lennox then noted that the township received additional OCIF funding of $900,000.
Adam McNabb, director of finance for the township, explained that the second draft of the budget suggests a $900,000 utilization of the additional OCIF funding.
“We received notification that we’re receiving additional funding for OCIF. We’re going to have a total of $1.9 million of OCIF funding which opens up significant opportunities of increased utilization of that allocation. We can certainly offset reserve funds and the utilization of OCIF to lower the tax increase,” explained McNabb.
McNabb also noted that from the OCIF funding, $40,000 would be taken out of it in order to offset the gap between last year’s tax levy to this year’s.
“Our levy last year was $7.9 million, so $79,000 would be the percentage point and half of that is just shy of $40,000. So, that would be an additional contribution from OCIF to fund that gap and bring down the half percent,” said McNabb.
Lennox noted that the additional OCIF will not be used for current capital projects, but will be put aside into reserves for future projects.
As such, the capital program is still consistent with the first draft of the budget, with a minor addition of $25,000 for the redesigning of the work yard at Arthur, which totals to a proposed capital projects cost of $15,194,892 for 2022. The majority of it is still coming from the roads and drainage department, totalling up to $6.8 million.
Reserves and taxpayers money will still be used to fund the capital program, however, councillors agreed that they would take some of the funding in order to offset the gap of last year’s total tax levy to this year’s, ultimately, putting the proposed property tax increase to two per cent.
Councillors also discussed a hot topic during the second budget deliberation: the proposed new Mount Forest Fire Hall construction site plan.
Chris Harrow, director of fire services for the townships of Minto and Wellington North, explained that the existing fire hall at Mount Forest is currently outgrowing the current fire staff.
“We’ve come to know that the fire hall is not meeting our needs and we’re busting at the seams more or less. We don’t have any showers, the concrete floors are breaking apart, the bunker room is very small and with the new decontamination guidelines we need to follow, we would need more room to properly follow such guidelines,” said Harrow.
“This is just the exploratory phase; we want to show the council our options first before jumping the gun and building a new fire hall there. Really, we’re just trying to figure out if we can even fit another fire hall at that site or not.”
The proposed fire department budget for 2022 is $138,000 with $50,000 going to the construction site planning of the proposed Mount Forest fire hall and another $50,000 for another fire pick up truck; $20,000 for fire hose replacement, and $18,000 for bunker gear.
There’s currently two pickup trucks: one in the Arthur fire hall and one in the Mount Forest fire hall.
“We need another pick up truck as we have received new decontamination guidelines, and we won’t be able to decontaminate as fully as the guidelines recommend if we only have one to use for each fire hall and we use that one truck often,” said Harrow.
“This way, we’d have a backup that the deputy chief can drive around.”
The final budget deliberation is set on Jan. 10.