The Town budget has passed its first round of approval, with an increase to the tax levy below target.
At the beginning of the discussion Monday evening, the rise over last year’s budget was at about 5.1 per cent, above the 4.5 per cent cap council had requested.
But with a few tweaks agreed to by councillors, they approved a 4.48 per cent tax hike over last year.
With a tax increase of 4.4 per cent, the increase for a house assessed at $485,000 is $44, a $750,000 assessment would see a hike of $68 and a $1-million home would have taxes raised by $90.
To help achieve that level, there was good news from the library: a provincial grant that was in doubt came through, with an additional $10,000, reducing the town budget by that amount.
The Niagara Historical Society had asked for an additional $51,000, and treasurer Kyle Freeborn offered some alternatives for funding that. Councillors agreed to pay for it out of the parking reserve rather than the tax base, further lowering the tax increase.
Councillors also agreed to defer the Byron Street parking meters and remove that capital investment from the 2019 budget, with the intention of taking a holistic look at parking in the heritage district for next year.
The increases requested from the NOTL Chamber of Commerce, the Niagara District Airport and Niagara College were approved.
Coun. Clare Cameron asked for and received approval for lowering the rent of the former hospital building for Royal Oak Community School to about $6,000, bringing it to the level of last year and offering some relief for the registered charity.
Coun. Allan Bisback thanked town staff for their efforts, “working day and night” to put the budget together. “I think you learned a lot. We learned a lot too,” he said.
He also thanked treasurer Kyle Freeborn for “excellent work.”
Council will ratify the budget Monday.