Councillors request tax hike scenarios
By Chad Ingram
Haliburton County residents should expect at least a 3.85 per cent increase in their upper-tier property taxes for 2016.
County treasurer Laura Janke gave councillors a peek at the 2016 draft budget during their Dec. 16 meeting and council requested scenarios be drawn up based on various tax increases.
Janke is predicting a surplus for 2015, the exact amount of which is not yet known and is recommended to go into the county’s working fund reserve.
Winter’s late onset will result in savings in the roads department, which constitutes the largest chunk of the municipality’s budget at 43 per cent.
“We’re going to be significantly under,” Janke said of the county’s winter maintenance budget, where it’s being recommended $100,000 be put into winter maintenance reserves.
Haliburton County has a total budget in the area of $20 million and for 2016, more than $14 million of that will be levied through taxation.
Reserves heading into 2016 are at approximately $3 million, but that money will be dipped into throughout the year.
“We know we have to use them again,” Janke said.
Some auditors suggest that to be in a healthy position, municipalities should have as much as the equivalent of half a year’s tax levy in reserves.
Janke’s draft, which included $620,000 carved from roads and bridge capital, showed the county could do what it needed to do for the year with a tax increase for residents of 1.85 per cent.
In 2015, for every $100,000 of assessment on residential properties, Haliburton County residents paid $177.85 of tax to the county, $263.70 for every $100,000 of assessment for commercial properties.
A 1.85 per cent increase would mean those amounts would climb to $181.15 and $268.59, respectively, for every $100,000 of assessment.
However, councillors weren’t satisfied a 1.85 per cent increase would look after the county’s needs, including expansion of high-speed Internet and keeping reserve balances at a healthy level.
“We need to have reserves,” Dysart et al Reeve Murray Fearrey said, adding that when funding opportunities from the province and feds become available, the municipality will need matching funds.
Fearrey said an additional increase of at least two per cent – for a total of 3.85 per cent – would be required.
“Two per cent’s a minimum,” agreed Minden Hills Reeve Brent Devolin.
Council requested that scenarios looking at 3.85, 4.85 and 5.85 per cent tax rate increases be drawn up.
Budget talks will resume in January.