MH council set to pass budget
By Chad Ingram
Published March 1, 2018
After a fourth round of budget discussions, Minden Hills council is set to pass the 2018 budget. The tax levy increase will be 8.6 per cent over last year.
“It is roads, it is landfill, are the two big ones,” said township treasurer and chief administrative officer Lorrie Blanchard during a Feb. 22 meeting.
The roads department and property and environmental operations department comprise 3.42 and 3.57 per cent, respectively, of the 8.61 per cent increase.
An increase of about $300,000 in the property and environmental operations budget raises that department’s budget from less than $700,000 to close to $1 million. Most of that increase is related to work that must be completed at the Scotch Line landfill. In 2017, Minden Hills township received two clean-up orders from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change. One concerned a high amount of leachate on the property, the other the volume and improper storage of hazardous household waste.
Provincially mandated wage increases also mean that wage costs at the township’s landfills will increase by approximately $65,000 for the year.
The roads department has the largest budget at approximately $3.6 million, which is a $1-million reduction from the draft roads budget that was included in the first round of budget talks.
While some municipalities are taking measures such as downgrading roads from hard-top to gravel in order to mitigate increases in their roads budgets, most councillors agreed it was necessary to keep up roads maintenance to avoid greater costs down the line.
Minden Hills’ OPP bill for 2018 is $1.9 million. This year marks the fourth year of a five-year phase-in of a new billing formula that weights seasonal residences as households. Therefore, under the formula, communities with large seasonal populations have seen their policing bills increase substantially.
For residential properties in Minden Hills, the change will mean an increase in taxation from $3.37 to $3.54 for every $1,000 of assessment.
According to a report from Blanchard, for a property assessed at $250,000 that has received a mid-range, phased-in assessment from MPAC of three per cent, the end result would be an increase in taxation of $68.90 for the year, or approximately $5.75 per month.
A five per cent assessment increase on that same property would mean a taxation increase of $86.60 for the year, or approximately $7.20 per month.
The average assessed value of a non-waterfront home in Minden Hills is $225,500. The average assessed value of a waterfront residential property is $430,700.
As she had previously, Councillor Pam Sayne said she was concerned the tax increase may be too much for township residents who are already financially marginalized to bear.
“I know I’m a minority here, on this budget,” Sayne said. “I think this increase isn’t because of anything other than the way we’ve made decisions.”
Sayne pointed to the new Minden Hills fire hall, a $2-million project that council opted to pay for largely out-of-pocket, rather than through a loan, as an example.
“We decided to pay with our surplus, to pay off the fire hall all at once,” she said. Sayne also pointed to the affordable housing complex on Parkside Street, which ended up costing the municipality more than anticipated.
“All of these things have really caught up to us this year . . . some of them are in-camera, I won’t mention,” she said.
Sayne said she feared the tax increase could mean that entrepreneurs, for example, would choose to set up shop in other municipalities.
“When you see that taxes are going up, where are you going to decide to put your business?” she said. “If you’re looking at tax increases and growth, you’re probably going to locate your business in Dysart, as opposed to Minden Hills.”
Sayne suggested the township could find cost savings by looking at the necessity of the replacement of some roads equipment, for example.
Councillor Ron Nesbitt also expressed hesitation on the size of the increase.
“If I was an outsider looking at Minden Hills, with the size of that increase, do you think I’d go here?” Nesbitt said.
Of the four lower-tier municipalities of Haliburton County, Minden Hills’s tax levy increase is the largest. In Algonquin Highlands budget discussions, the increase is sitting at just more than four per cent. In Highlands East, the figure is 2.4 per cent and in Dysart et al, council is preparing to pass a 1/5 per cent tax levy increase.
The budget is scheduled to be passed in March.