Brooke-Alvinston tax increase 4.5 per cent


Brooke-Alvinston is increasing its municipal budget by 4.5 per cent this year.
It’s a far cry from the 28 per cent councillors first saw when the proposed 2017 budget was presented but more than the 2.28 per cent Treasurer Steve Ikert had proposed by using $390,000 out of reserves.
The municipality is actually spending less money than 2016 with a budget of about $5 million this year – $104,000 less than last year. The big problem is revenue is down $717,000 this year, including a reduction in the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund of  $130,000.
McGugan says if council wants to bring down the tax rate one per cent, it has to find $25,000 in savings. Losing $130,000 in funding, he says, is the equivalent of increasing taxes more than five per cent.
But Mayor Don McGugan says three of the five councillors were uncomfortable reducing the tax rate by taking more money out of reserves.
McGugan was one of them. “What are we going to do next spring? Because the challenges are not going to get less,” he says adding this is the most difficult budget he’s dealt with in over 18 years on council.
Instead, council found some places to reduce spending including cutting the sidewalk replacement budget in half to $15,000, taking $10,000 out of the reserves for both the Inwood and Alvinston Fire Departments, and reducing the amount of money spent on the Elgin Street reconstruction by $20,000.
“So $55,000 was taken out with minor cuts. To get the big cuts, it was pretty hard to do.”
McGugan isn’t pleased, knowing some people will face significant tax increases due not just to the increase in municipal taxes but because their property assessments have increased. He uses his own property as an example. His home and 50 acre farm is assessed less than what he could sell it for but higher than the average Alvinston property. He expects his taxes of about $3,000 a year will go up 10 per cent this year.
McGugan expects farmers will bear the brunt of the increase.
“Some residents may go down because of lower assessment but agriculture will take a hit,” McGugan says.
Lambton County is considering shifting some of the tax burden away from agriculture, but the mayor is not sure that is the best idea either considering business and homeowners will only end up paying more instead.
And he says the next budget won’t be any easier since the provincial government plans to continue reducing the amount of funding it sends to rural municipalities. Here are some of the highlights of the budget;
* The cost of garbage and recycling pick up dropped two per cent
* $120,000 is set aside to finish the paving on four Inwood roads which were rebuilt last year
* $105,000 will be used to replace three major culverts
* By taking $172,000 out of reserves, about $2.538 million is now set aside.