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Wellington North looking to scale back on capital projects to help ease tax crunch

The director of finance explained that keeping an impact to the levy at 0 per cent, capital contributions would have to drop around $500,000
The Township of Wellington North administration centre in Kenilworth. Keegan Kozolanka/GuelphToday file photo

TWP. OF WELLINGTON NORTH – Wellington North council is looking for staff to scale back on 2021 capital expenditures in the face of higher operating costs impacting the tax levy. 

Adam McNabb, director of finance, presented the 2021 operating budget overview to Wellington North council on Monday evening. 

Uncertainty around funding from upper levels of government and COVID-19’s ongoing impact to operations.

McNabb said the impacts are being particularly felt in the parks and recreation department. A steep decline in revenue and increased sanitation have increased operating costs by $300,000 compared to this year. 

He asked council for direction on what would be an appropriate tax levy for 2021.

McNabb explained that to have a 0 per cent impact on taxpayers, capital contributions would have to drop to $1.75 million from $2.3 million.

To keep capital contributions the same, taxpayers would feel an impact of nearly 8 per cent which would mean more than a $100 tax levy increase on an average single family home. 

Mayor Andy Lennox asked how comfortable staff and council was with scaling back on capital projects. 

CAO Michael Givens said staff has been preparing for this possibility. 

“We anticipate that council will be supportive of scaling back the capital program this year to alleviate some of the pressures of the overall levy impact,” Givens said to council. 

However, he said there has been a lot of conversations for large upcoming projects means they need further direction on what is expected to be included in 2021 capital projects. 

He noted the Queen Street connecting link project, rural broadband expansion, the downtown Arthur streetscape enhancement and Arthur Community Centre renovations as highlights of recent talks. 

Councillors Steve McCabe and Sherry Burke both mentioned paving Concession Road 4 North as they have both received numerous calls from residents.

Overall, council was agreed that a big increase to the tax levy was not palatable under the circumstances of this year. 

Lennox noted that for important capital projects they could find other ways to pay for them but acknowledged that being conservative with projects is probably a wise move.

“We need to find a way to do them whether it’s from reserves, pushing it off a year or taking on some debt,” Lennox said. “I think scaling back a little bit on capital is appropriate.”