WINCHESTER – It’s no surprise to many North Dundas residents that their taxes will be increased this year.

The North Dundas council after many weeks of debate and discussion passed their 2022 budget on March 8.

The township began their budget process with budget meetings with all their department heads in November, December, and January.

Everyone had an opportunity to make a pitch for what they felt were necessary projects.

Between increasing capital costs, new projects, necessary roadwork, and the cost increases across the board for all Ontario municipalities, the 2022 residential tax rate for North Dundas residents went up by 5.3 per cent from last year.

Homeowners with a home valued at $300,000 will have a tax increase of $5.32/month and a $400,000 home will see an increase of $7.09/month.

While North Dundas Mayor Tony Fraser was not thrilled with the tax increase, he was pragmatic about it.

All the councillors felt this year’s budget was a case of a “pay me now or pay me later” type situation. They did not want to ignore their current municipal financial reality and pass on the burden to future taxpayers and councils.

Last year, North Dundas was able to have a 1.1 per cent decrease in their taxes.

“When I look at the numbers from last year, the levy from last year, it does not soften the blow and it will be perceived to be a blow,” said Fraser.

“It’s a big increase but you have to be mindful that everything has increased which has driven the cost to repairing a roof, for example, to a number that is unheard of.”

A good example of that is the project to repair the roof on the Sam Ault Arena in Winchester as well as other maintenance costs at the Chesterville arena.

“But that is where we stand,” said Fraser.

 “This year is a big jump, but you have to be mindful that there were savings last year that we were unable to find this year. We took advantage of that last year,” he said.

Fraser feels the increase this year in the budget reflects the kind of costs that residents can appreciate.

“The express desire of council, and community members to have improved roads, and the poor conditions of the roads had gotten to the point we could not delay it any longer.

We did take some smaller roads out, but arterial roads like Development Road, and Belmeade Road, those roads are vital to our community members to go to work and to travel. The community expects to be able to get from point A to point B,” said Fraser.

“We did find ways to save, but it is still 5.3 per cent.”

Fraser said the timing of this year’s budget was bad with the pandemic and rising costs in all sectors.

“It is unfortunate that this budget comes at a time when there are increasing fuel, food, and fertilizer prices. I do not want to make light of this 5.3 per cent increase, but it may be the best deal going.”

A breakdown of the budget showed that looking after the roads in the municipality was the most expensive item.

After the initial budget meetings in January, the estimated 2022 budget came in at $9,576,258; this represented an increase over the previous year of $2,864,838.

By Feb. 15, continued meetings and discussion between council and department heads, had reduced the January amount to $7,208,495.

The new budget demands were the result of putting off some projects and prioritizing others.

Treasurer John Gareau, said, “Council was able to bring Development Road back into the budget after it had been initially cut. This was accomplished by financing it with long-term debt of approximately $680,000. In addition, the repairs to the Joel Steele Community Centre roof were also financed with long-term debt, bringing total long-term borrowings to $1.6 million for this year’s budget. We have to do a balancing act where we want to give the ratepayers the best bang for their buck. We have been looking at 2.5 to 3.5 per cent increases for years.”

The idea behind the long-term borrowing is that it will not affect the current year’s tax levy, enabling council to keep the increase at 5.3 per cent.

This budget has some major infrastructure upgrades. A press release from the municipality stated:  

  • $3.145 million for roadways, bridges, and culverts. Replacing the Cayer Road bridge and reconstructing sections of Clark Road and Development Road are planned projects.  
  • $1 million for roof repairs on the Joel Steele Community Centre.
  • $84,000 for upgrades to various municipal parks (including ball diamonds and tennis courts) and $445,000 for the first stage of the development of a new park and outdoor rink in Hallville.

Looking at the budget from a distance, the numbers for last year show that the Public Works and recreation departments together accounted for 67 per cent of the 2021 budget. This year the number is expected to be similar.

To view the full agenda package, go to: www.northdundas.com/eScribe.

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