Billings passes draft budget with zero percent tax increase

Township of Billings

KAGAWONG—Billings Township will have a zero percent increase in its tax rate for 2021.

“I’m fine with that,” stated Mayor Ian Anderson at a special meeting of council held in July to consider the draft budget. “With the prolonged pandemic, and things like tourism, everyone had to suffer the last year-and-a-half. If we were ever going to give our taxpayers a break this would be the year. And we still have a healthy reserve. It would be prudent to keep our tax rate at zero. A few neighbouring municipalities kept their increases to zero, while in at least one taxes were increased about three percent. I’m content with going with a zero percent increase.”

Kathy McDonald, township clerk, told council $4.6 million in capital assets will have been added to the township by the end of 2021. “I think we are doing really good financially.”

Councillor Sharon Alkenbrack said, “and what everyone is doing (development wise) downtown has been fantastic.”

Ms. McDonald took council through the budget final short version under revenue: tax collection 2021, $1,917,113, payment in lieu $7,750, federal funding of $135,118 to the township (of which $52,500 is going toward the waterfront improvement project). A total of $4,229,237 in funding was provided by the province. Of the total provided by the province $2.3 million was grant, $47,000 toward fire services, $500,000 for asset management and $31,418 was provided for COVID-19 expenses. Almost $3.5 million in total was provided for the Main Street Hill improvement project.

Total revenues were $7,430,174.

Total expenses in the budget are at $7,470,174. Of this, $4,266,000 is in capital projects and street lights converted to LED, hard surfacing of roads, contracts, support for the museum/library, fire, public works. Operating all departments of the township totaled $1,007,425 including policing, dog pound services, public health unit, ambulance, (District Services Board [DSB]), Ontario Works, child care, social housing (DSB), planning board, information centre and property-Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC). The total legislated support totals $697,428 and the total expenses are $7,470,174. This draft budget includes economic development, library, museum or parks, recreation and wellness committees.

Ms. McDonald noted the policing costs to the township may increase. They are usually reconciled every two years, so the township could get money back or pay more for policing services.

Councillor Alkenbrack noted $100,000 had been originally provided for work on the Mudge Creek bridge and $100,000 for the fire hall, while $200,000 was provided for the shoreline work. A total of $50,000 is being provided for necessary work to be done on the fire hall.  

The $50,000 for the fire hall, “is for engineering and design so we can go ahead with tenders for the construction,” said Ms. McDonald. “But next year this will have to budgeted, and we are hoping there will be funding available for the work to be done.” 

Ms. McDonald said, “we have had two reports done on the condition of the fire hall, and it is going to pretty much need to be repaired from the top to the bottom of the building.” 

“The Mudge Creek Bridge and fire hall work are dependent on funding. I was hoping we would be able to get to the fire hall this year, but obviously the actual work is not going to happen this year,” said Councillor Sharon Jackson.

Ms. McDonald said it is hoped the engineering and design work will be complete by the end of the year and pointed out the only time renovations can be done on the fire hall is during a summer season. “If renovation work is being carried out, firefighting equipment has to be stored in another location.”

“For the 2021 tax rate calculation we used the same rate (as last year), with a zero percent increase,” said Ms. McDonald. “We are looking at a zero percent increase.”

Mayor Anderson said “It is fortunate that MPAC froze its assessment review for this year. Everyone is probably getting a break of two years with no assessment increase and thank goodness there hasn’t been any increases (during the pandemic). I still feel we need to give people a break if we can this year.” 

“As long as costs remain as they are and we don’t have to look at taking from our reserves to function, I would agree,” said Councillor Alkenbrack. Both Councillors Michael Hunt and Jackson agreed as well.

“As long as we are not missing anything in the budget, and we do have a very healthy reserve,” said Councillor Bryan Barker, “I favour a zero percent increase but would not object to a slight increase if necessary. If council is in favour of a zero percent increase I would support this, but if the feeling is that there should be a slight increase I would be in favour of that as well.”

Council approved the zero percent tax increase budget at its regular council meeting August 3.