Councillors finalized the Town’s 2020 tax rates Monday, allowing the tax levy to be approved in time for the final instalment of this year’s taxes, payable in July and September.
Although there was no discussion of revisiting the Town’s 2020 net tax levy of $12,686,151, as approved in this year’s operating budget, some councillors questioned how unexpected spending during the state of emergency to deal with the pandemic would affect the budget.
The report councillors were approving this week outlined the Town’s budget with the Regional waste management fees, basic and the enhanced services for Queen Street, included. Those costs add $1,682,389 to the budget. Properties receiving the benefit of solid waste collection will be charged the basic rate, the report says, with Queen Street businesses receiving enhanced collection paying for that service.
On an “average typical” residential assessment of $530,900, rural area property owners will pay $5,244, an increase of $297 over last year, and urban taxpayers will see a bill of $5,300, an increase of $298 over 2019, the report said.
Coun. Stuart McCormack asked, with the 2020 budget approved pre-pandemic, before knowing “how things would unfold,” and with the Province making changes on a daily basis, whether council would be “capping our recovery to this.”
He and other councillors questioned what options are available if the budget needs to be amended due to a drop in revenue and an increase in costs due to the pandemic, along with the possibility of drawing on the Town’s line of credit.
Kyle Freeborn, director of corporate services, said he has been unable to find anything in the Municipal Act that would allow for the budget to be amended, and that if necessary, he would seek outside guidance to see what options are available.
He’s been keeping tabs on other municipalities, and hasn’t seen any revisiting their budget in response to the pandemic, he said.
Coun. Burroughs said he was hesitant to approve the figures before them until he knows what the Province will allow in the way of amendments. “We can’t achieve what we’ve already set, it’s impossible to get there,” he said. “What are we going to do about that?” he asked, adding NOTL is more tourism-based than any other municipality, with the exception of Niagara Falls.
Freeborn ensured councillors “certain budgets are not achievable,” and “certain strategic mitigations” are included in the budget to address those.
The pandemic situation is being addressed as it evolves, month by month, he said.
He’s “hesitant to change the budget,” and drawing on credit isn’t necessary at this time, Freeborn told councillors.
While the situation continues to change, and could become “volatile” in the coming weeks, the loss of revenue has been offset by reductions in costs, and costs of the pandemic are so far manageable, said Freeborn.
All councillors voted to approve the budget bylaw before them, with the exception of McCormack, who abstained.