AH approves 2019 budget
By Chad Ingram
Published Feb. 28, 2019
Algonquin Highlands councillors approved the township’s 2019 budget after two days of budget deliberations on Feb. 20 and 21.
The budget contains a tax levy increase of just less than five per cent over last year, but the actual tax rate increase experienced by property owners will be 1.56 per cent. For every $100,000 of residential assessment, property taxes will be $315.50, an increase of $4.84 from 2018.
That figure is for lower-tier taxes only, and does not include increases at the upper-tier level of the county, or the education board.
Among the impacts to the budget were $18,500 added for council wages and benefits. This year, the federal government changed a tax law that had traditionally taxed elected officials on two thirds of their income, the rationale being the break helped them deal with out-of-pocket costs related to official duties that are not eligible to be expensed. Elected officials will now be taxed on their full income. Algonquin Highlands council and many councils throughout the country voted last year to increase remuneration by a margin that would allow councillors’ take-home pay to remain the same.
The budget included $60,000 added for the creation of a new administrative assistant position; $20,000 for added training in the public works and administration departments; and an approximate $20,000 increase in landfill contract services.
There is also $10,000 allotted for the costs of an integrity commissioner. Provincial legislation has required that all municipalities retain the services of an integrity commissioner who will essentially be on call. The integrity commissioner will be responsible for not only investigating any complaints lodged against councillors or staff members, but will also act as an educational resource for councillors.
“My only question on this page would be if we’ve allotted enough money for an integrity commissioner,” said Deputy Mayor Liz Danielsen, noting that Algonquin Highlands council has a couple of new members following last year’s municipal elections, and that they may have questions.
Treasurer Tammy McKelvey said she’d budgeted $5,000 under consulting fees for the integrity commissioner, and $5,000 to be placed in reserve.
“I’m suggesting we start a reserve for that purpose,” McKelvey said. “We have $10,000 in this budget.”
Other additions to the budget include $5,000 for consulting services for the continuation of an organizational review of the township, and $29,000 in wages in case the provincial government pulls a $30,000 grant for the Stewardship Ranger program. If provincial funding continues, the township will either put that money back into reserves or allocate it elsewhere.
There is $5,000 for survey work at Buttermilk Falls, where the township plans to make trail improvements and take measures to mitigate trespassing on a neighbouring resort property, and $2,000 for signage along the Beetle Lake trail. A new environmental reserve was also created, with $2,000 allocated.
While the provincial government has announced it is reviewing the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund, for this year, Algonquin Highlands will retain the same level of funding it received in 2018, approximately $1.26 million.
Council will also consider borrowing money for one of two major capital projects. One is a new public works garage at Stanhope, where the current facility is too small and provides inadequate storage space. The second would be the reconstruction of the satellite office and public works garage in Dorset.
“We carry no discernible debt and now is a good time to borrow so we added in part of the potential repayment of a possible $1 million debenture for one of those two projects,” Mayor Carol Moffatt told the Times. “Reports will be coming forward on both and council will decide. Since neither one would actually start in 2019, we can use the 2020 budget to capture the other part of the potential repayment, spreading it out over two years.”