Billings council approves 2014 ‘good news’ budget

KAGAWONG—The news is good for Billings taxpayers in terms of this year’s municipal budget.

“I think this could be called a good news budget,” stated Mayor Austin Hunt, noting there has been a zero percent increase at a council meeting last week. “The tax rates will remain the same as they were last year.”

Mayor Hunt said one reason for taxes not being increased is due to assessments of local properties through the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) has increased. “Secondly, our municipality has one of the highest building permit returns in the area, which we are fortunate to have.”

Mayor Hunt said the income the municipality has taken in over the past year is the same, more or less than it was last year. “And everything that had been outstanding is paid off except for the fire truck. We also bought a backhoe but had put funds away for this purchase.”

“And we have a very good reserve to work with, of half a million dollars,” said Mayor Hunt. “So we do have healthy reserves in place.”

On the water works (which has a budget of its own), Mayor Hunt explained, “This involves only those on the water plant system—about 170 water users. We can spend up to $1.5 million to completely rebuild the water treatment plant, with 90 percent of the costs of this to be paid by the provincial and federal governments, and by this time next year we have a new start of the art water treatment plant.” He noted water users will only have to pay about $22 each towards these costs.”

Municipal Clerk Kathy McDonald provided several other highlights in the budget, indicating two capital projects, including renovation work on 91 Main Street, have been undertaken and the township purchased a backhoe for $80,102, which was paid off through its reserves.

“We will have our new plow truck paid off by the end of the year, and the only item we will still have to pay on is our fire truck,” said Ms. McDonald.

“I don’t think there is really any bad news of any kind in this budget,” said Mayor Hunt.

Council passed a resolution accepting the 2014 budget as presented, and the tax rate bylaw was given first and second reading.

Council also gave all three readings for its water levy bylaw.

The budget also provided good news for its employees, said Mayor Hunt. “There is good news for our employees—permanent staff will be receiving a two percent wage increase across the board,” which is retroactive to January 2014.