Dysart council eyes 6.71% tax increase
By Jenn Watt
Published March 19, 2019
Dysart councillors took a third look at the budget on Thursday and determined a tax increase of 6.71 per cent was necessary.
For residential properties with an assessment of $100,000, the increase will amount to $17.84 extra a year.
The largest increases were needed for transportation as well as environmental services, with those departments
requiring $422,500 and $282,000 more, respectively. The increase is less than was discussed at the February meeting as $65,000 to replace a vehicle for the parks and recreation department will be drawn from reserves, rather than through taxation.
Dysart’s budget will be formally passed at council’s March 26 meeting.
County council approved its budget in principle last month, which would increase its portion of the tax bill by 5.72 per cent. The education portion has not yet been determined.
Councillors also agreed to increase the annual sewer service fees from $613 per equivalent residential unit to $638.
“I personally think that this is a budget we can absolutely stand behind as a council,” Mayor Andrea Roberts said, noting that the work on local roads needs to be done and that winter maintenance will likely continue to require more money than it has historically.
“We’ve already had one of the harshest winters that anyone in this township can remember,” she said. Increases to the roads budget, which is listed under transportation, include $144,000 more for sanding and salting and another $100,000 for snowplowing.
Treasurer Barbara Swannell told the Echo following the meeting that the increase to the environment budget “is attributed to the rising cost of landfill maintenance which includes materials (gravel/sand) and equipment (excavator/dozer).”
Councillors looked to a few discretionary items in the budget to discuss, with Deputy Mayor Patrick Kennedy asking his colleagues whether the water refill stations (budgeted at $20,000) and digital sign for the arena ($20,000) could be reconsidered.
Councillor John Smith said he’d be willing to put off the arena sign until he saw more information about potential revenues it could generate through advertising, but he didn’t think removing water refill stations was prudent.
“I think that’s something, from an environmental point of view, we’re seeing a lot of pushback in our community, people looking for alternatives for the single-use plastics and for us to walk away from that right now would be, I think, a step in the wrong direction,” he said.
Smith added that he wanted to see the Haliburton Highlands Museum begin bringing in more revenue to help offset the expense to the taxpayer. He pointed out that the arena charges user fees, which bring in between 25 and 30 per cent toward the operating costs. The museum’s donations bring in about five per cent, he said.
“I’d like to see us, not shut the museum down, but say to those folks that are there, hey, pay $3 or $4. That’s not an outrageous amount,” he said.
Roberts said that ideas for revenue generation would be up for conversation during the goals and objectives meeting scheduled for May.
She defended the budget for the arena sign, saying it had been planned several years ago and kept getting removed from the budget. She said that corner is an entry point to town and the new sign would make a good impression, in the same way that landscaping does.
Councillor Walt McKechnie said he wanted to see the tax increase lower and suggested removing the water refill stations, electronic sign and the plan for the room in the upstairs of the arena (budgeted at $30,000) to be removed.
Councillor Tammy Donaldson agreed with Roberts about the sign and said the water refill stations showed the public that the township is doing something for the environment.
Each councillor was asked what they would want to remove from the budget with the majority stating they were comfortable with the budget as presented.