Taxes creep up one per cent in Plympton-Wyoming

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Heather Wright/The Independent

Plympton-Wyoming councillors have approved the 2021 budget – with over $21 million in spending – but there are still some questions to be answered.
And at least two members of council are concerned about rising costs for people struggling during the pandemic.

Council approved the towns $14,405,736 operating budget and $6,645,630 capital budget Monday in a special meeting which stretched over nearly four hours.
Councillors made no changes to the document presented by Treasurer Norma Roddick-Preece.

In a report to council, Roddick-Preece said there was an 8.8 per cent increase in spending for general government which includes the cost of administration and council. That’s about $125,795 more than 2020. Some of that can be attributed to the cost of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fire department’s operating budget is just $64 more than last year. This despite a $20,000 increase in the spending for the leadership of the department.
Plympton-Wyoming is about to hire a new fire chief. The line also includes the stipend for the volunteers who serve as district chiefs. Councillor Mike Vasey asked why that line was increased by $20,000 in 2021. CAO Carolyn Tripp said she was “not comfortable” discussing the increase in open session. Under privacy rules, the salaries of individuals should not be revealed however councils may discuss the salaries of vacant positions in open session.

Tripp says the line budget includes a one per cent cost of living increase and “the new chief will be paid in accordance with the salary grid previously approved for the position.”
She did not immediately respond to an email asking how that could constitute a $20,000 increase.

In all, the Plympton-Wyoming Fire Department will spend $396,856 on wages in 2021, about 57 per cent of the operating costs of the department.

Two new fire trucks are also on their way to Plympton-Wyoming. The department ordered the trucks in 2020, and the $1,316,270 for their purchase – which included money from an insurance payout after an accident during a call – had already been set aside for the purchase.

The fire department will spend a total of $1.5 million on equipment for a total budget of $2,191,874.

The town also plans to spend about 3.6 per cent more or $167,613 more on roads this year, according to Roddick-Preece.

Insurance premiums have increased by $51,000 over last year according to Adam Sobanski, director of public works. An additional $30,000 for COVID-19 related expenses.

One of the big projects this year will be the reconstruction of Niagara Street, west of London Street. The road, sidewalk, drainage, water mains and parking will be reconstructed at a cost of $500,000. The same amount was spent last year in preparation for the work.

Sobanski has also budgeted $1.14 million for the town’s portion of new municipal drains.
About $500,000 has been put aside to find a fix for Hillcrest Road. Councillor Bob Woolvett says the slope of the road has collapsed and is now nearly at the edge of the road. Sobanski hopes to fix the problem this year, but first the engineering work has to be done.

The town will also spend $175,000 resurfacing roads and another $130,000 improving trails and sidewalks. That’s about $55,000 more than 2020.

Another $350,000 has been put into the building reserve in the hope of replacing the Reece’s Corners public works building. A recent service review found it should be replaced as soon as possible, saying it was “dangerous” for employees and did not meet the building code.

Public works also plans to buy a new tandem axle dump and plow for $350,000. It’s a replacement for an older version in the fleet.

There are a number of projects in the works in the parks and recreation budget costing $158,491. It includes fencing at Centennial Park, $20,000 for building improvements at Canton park and about $6,000 worth of improvements at the Arnold Minielly Park.

There will be $25,000 in repairs to the Blue Point Park tennis courts, and $40,000 in new equipment at Mandaumin Park.

The total spending on yearly operations is now $14,405,736. That’s up $982,655 from 2020.

Plympton-Wyoming did receive about $485,000 in new grants in 2021, much of it funding because of COVID-19.

There is another $130,376 in taxation growth because of assessment to help cushion the increased spending.

Roddick-Preece says the result of the one per cent tax increase will be about $6.59 for every $100,000 of assessed value of the property for homeowners.

Taxpayers are also facing increases in water and sewer rates. Both will increase 3.6 per cent to pay for running the system. Some money has also been put into reserves for future improvements to the infrastructure.

For the average family of four this will result in an approximate increase of $6.95 bi-monthly.

Both Councillor Bob Woolvett and Mayor Lonny Napper expressed concern about the increase, saying there are some people struggling to make ends meet because of the pandemic.