Huron East Council passes its 2021 budget
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Huron East Council has passed its 2021 budget with an overall tax levy increase of 2.89 per cent.
Council passed the final draft of the budget at its March 23 meeting, held in-person at the Seaforth and District Community Centre. It included operating expenditures of $10.5 million and an increase of $431,487 in general municipal levies, which resulted in a 5.71 per cent increase to the municipal portion of the levy to be used for Huron East’s purposes. The overall tax rate increase of 2.89 is reached by factoring in the Huron County and education levies.
The overall tax rate will rise in Grey by 6.59 per cent, followed by 2.94 per cent in Brussels, 2.17 per cent in Tuckersmith, 1.45 per cent in Seaforth and 0.97 per cent in McKillop, resulting in the average increase of 2.89 per cent.
In her presentation, Treasurer Paula Michiels stated that the municipal portion of property taxes on the average assessment, valued at $216,341, would be $1,658 for Seaforth, $1,565 for Brussels, $1,178 for Tuckersmith, $1,092 for Grey and $1,060 for McKillop. The general municipal tax levy sits at $5,531,293 in 2021, which is up from $5,099,806 in 2020.
The municipality’s reserves have also decreased as a result of this year’s budget, dropping from $13.9 million to $11.8 million. The main utilization of the reserves in this year’s budget, Michiels said, is from the working capital, bridge, water and wastewater reserves.
She also reiterated the reasons behind various pressures on the year’s budget, which include decreased money through the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF), a trend that has been ongoing for years, increased liability insurance premiums and annual inflation and cost increases.
All three levies have increased significantly over the past four years. As Michiels outlined in her presentation, Huron East’s levy has risen by 22.3 per cent since 2018. At the same time, the county levy has risen by 15.8 per cent and the education levy has increased by 5.6 per cent. Over that same four-year period, Huron East’s OMPF allocation has decreased by nearly $450,000, resulting in a 29 per cent decrease over the past four years.
Council made two final decisions on the budget at the March 23 meeting, aside from finally approving it. The first was to include a $40,000 generator for town hall in the budget after removing it earlier in the process, while the second was to transfer $100,000 to the equipment reserve for the replacement of a public works tandem truck in 2022. The truck is expected to cost over $300,000 next year and council opted to save $100,000 for the truck in order to soften the blow next year.
Mayor Bernie MacLellan felt there was reason for optimism in looking ahead to the 2022 budget process. Michiels had said that, according to the provincial government, the municipality’s OMPF allotment should now stabilize after years of cuts. Without starting in a hole in 2022, MacLellan felt the end of those cuts should provide Huron East with some “disposable income” next year.
Michiels agreed with him, but did provide a caveat, saying that the provincial government could always change its mind and hand down further cuts, but there has been no indication that that will be the case.
Council approved the budget with the added expenditures of $140,000.