Petrolia residents concerned about this year’s budget will have chance to hear for themselves what is in it.
Several dozen residents were at an open house April 7 to get some answers about a proposed eight per cent municipal tax increase. It calls for an eight per cent increase in municipal taxes including a five per cent increase for a Capital Sustainability Fund to repair roads.
While municipal spending is increasing, the county and education portion of the property tax bill is decreasing. That means taxpayers will notice a four per cent increase on the entire bill – about $59 this year for every $100,000 of assessment. The average assessment $173,000 in town.
The town was to consider and pass the document that night, after the open house.
But a number of people were left with concerns after the open house. Several people at the meeting told The Independent they were expecting a public meeting where town officials explained the numbers allowing questions and answers afterwards.
So when the budget came up for a vote at council, Councillor Grant Purdy raised those concerns. “I received calls from people that were concern with the open house the way it was set up,” he told The Independent. Purdy says the concerns ranged from the need for a formal presentation to the time of the meeting – starting at 5 pm to 6:30 pm – didn’t allow people who worked later to attend.
“I thought it would be in the best interests of the ratepayers to have it at 7 pm so the majority of people could attend.”
Purdy believe with the “shock” of seeing an eight percent increase in municipal spending, people need to hear all the details.
“There is a lot of depth to the budget,” he says “There are a lot of things that are necessary that are hard to explain to people; it is quite a detailed document.
“If people actually see the meat and potatoes of the document they might understand it a little better.”
In a recorded vote, council unanimously agreed to the additional meeting which will be held April 20 at 7pm.
Mayor John McCharles doesn’t “see any harm in it” adding that normally the public meeting for the budget is not well attended.
McCharles attributes that to the eight per cent increase in the municipal portion of the tax bill. He says, if people understand their tax bill will rise by only four per cent in total, there likely wouldn’t be as much concern.
And he looks forward to the town’s financial staff to fully explaining the needs of the community. “The OPP contract is a three per cent increase in the town budget – its $100,000 plus. The other five per cent is basically to put away some money toward reserves. We require reserves to get grant money (for capital projects.)”