Central Manitoulin passes 1.5 percent budget increase

CENTRAL MANITOULIN—The municipality has largely completed its budget process, passing a motion at its January 31 meeting to approve a budget for 2019 that includes a 1.5 percent increase in the residential mill rate. Commercial and industrial rates follow with a comparable increase.

“I want to express appreciation for all of the work that staff has done to bring all these numbers together and to make adjustments as needed,” said Mayor Richard Stephens. 

The levy increase is not the entire tax bill story, cautioned Mayor Stephens, as the educational portion of the tax bill has not yet been provided to the municipality. 

There is also the “elephant in the room” of those funds coming from the province through the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) that is currently under review by the province.

“We normally have those numbers much earlier,” admitted Central Manitoulin treasurer Denise Deforge. As a result of not knowing what, if any, change will be coming in the amount of OMPF funding, the municipality reduced the amount it anticipates receiving through that transfer in calculating the 2019 budget requirements.

“Our budget is making the assumption about what the Ford government will do,” said Councillor Derek Stephens, who added that there are still questions about what the District Services Board and OPP line items will be. “I am concerned that 1.5 percent might not cut it. We do not have clear commitments as to what those numbers will be yet. People need to be aware of that.”

Councillor Steve Shaffer noted that the municipality had decided to only replace one of two chillers at the arena that had been identified as needing replacement and asked if the decision had been made on which chiller would be replaced this year.

Councillor Linda Farquhar noted that the decision on which chiller would be replaced would be made at the property committee level, to which Mayor Stephens responded in the affirmative.

This year’s budget anticipates raising $4,562,252 revenue from municipal property taxes, up $67,422 from last year’s amount of $4,494,830.

Although the budget has been passed at council, residents will have to wait a little longer to find out what is in the envelope for their final tax bill as the education amount has not yet arrived. Schedules for the water and sewer rate increases, which are user pay and therefore separate from the overall mill rate, have also not yet been calculated and passed by council.

During the January 31 meeting council also passed motions authorizing the municipality to borrow interim funds if needed and authorizing the sending out of interim tax bills.

Councillor Stephens noted that the municipality has not had to use the borrowing authorization in recent years and questioned whether it was really necessary to implement a borrowing bylaw.

Treasurer Deforge, who was acting clerk for the January 31 meeting, noted that the borrowing bylaw is for operating expenses and is necessary to have in place as a precautionary measure. “We have to have the funds available should they be needed,” she confirmed.

Also passed at the January 31 meeting was a motion allowing for tax capping, a process that limits increases on commercial taxation, although Ms. Deforge noted that at present there are no properties that qualify for the cap.