Residential homeowners who were setting money aside for an anticipated tax hike would be wise to add a few more dollars to the pot.
When the average property tax bill arrives in September, the municipal portion, including general rate and assessment, will be about 6.3 per cent — or $83 — higher than it was last year. Current estimates of provincial rates puts the total increase at about $109.
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The $680-million operating budget Regional Council approved yesterday is about $2 million more than the one tabled April 1. Most of the added funds are for police and fire, commonly referred to as the “motherhood issues.” Road paving and tree planting also got a boost.
The proposed budget was based on direction from council to maintain the existing level of services, with some strategic improvements. Given rising costs, the municipal portion of the overall average residential property tax rate was positioned to go up by 5.7 per cent before the extra $2 million in services was approved.
Mayor Peter Kelly says he expects providing for an additional 32 police officers and 16 firefighters to draw support from residents that will overshadow gripes about the tax hike.
“(Crime) has been a longstanding issue in the community, and council felt it was important enough to put the extra resources toward it,” he said.
Judging from yesterday’s discussion, however, a number of councillors aren’t yet sold on the increase.
Bill Karsten, who represents Portland-East Woodlawn, was one of eight councillors that opposed the budget (15 voted for it), arguing that minor tax hikes accumulate over time.
“I’ve drawn my line in the sand,” he said.
The additions to police and fire could be accommodating by taking another stab at trimming the budget, he said.
He stopped short of making a motion to that effect, claiming “the will of council just wasn’t there to support it.”