It’s official. Despite speculations that Huntsville residents could see a slight decrease on their 2021 property tax, they’ll see a slight increase instead.
Huntsville council passed its 2021 budget at its January 25 meeting with an overall $16,985,645, tax-supported budget which represents a 2.37 per cent increase on the levy over last year, and a tax increase of 0.35 per cent.
Julia McKenzie, director of financial services/treasurer for the Town, told council that although a decrease was anticipated, it did not materialize due to the education part of the levy remaining the same, rather than decreasing as it has in previous years. Consequently, once assessment growth is taken into consideration as well as the District of Muskoka levy (expected to increase by 3 per cent or less over last year) and the cost of education, a house assessed at $300,000 will see a tax increase of about $4 over last year.
Councillor Tim Withey expressed disappointment. “So you didn’t try to find that 0.35 (per cent increase by cutting elsewhere) to make up for that,” he questioned. “No, we weren’t directed to go back and find that,” responded McKenzie.
Councillor Jonathan Wiebe put the onus on the District to try and arrive at a zero increase on the property tax for 2021. “I think now it falls on District councillors to try and lower that budget just slightly.”
Withey said he wasn’t so sure. “I don’t know if that’s the direction it’s got to go Councillor Wiebe. My opinion is that we could still go back and work on this to get it to zero. That’s what I’d like to see. I doubt I have the votes though.”
Mayor Karin Terziano asked what kind of cuts it would take to reduce the property tax to zero. “I just have to be careful because I can’t guarantee that it would go down to zero because I don’t have the District’s final levy yet,” responded McKenzie. While Councillor Jason FitzGerald said that in his opinion everyone had worked very hard and diligently “to reduce their cost and a lot of costs have been reduced. I’m very proud of what’s been presented for capital projects and improvements so I’m happy to let this go as presented and I don’t think we need to revisit it.”
Withey agreed reductions had been made but “ultimately the taxpayer isn’t getting one and that’s where I’m concerned and I think that… seeing as it was already out in public that we were going to… likely have a negative number and a number of people reached out to me to say this is great news, now we’re going back and saying ‘OK they don’t deserve for us to have another kick at this to get it to at least zero. Regardless of what they do at the other levels [of government], I think that perhaps we shouldn’t have assumed that education was going down in the first place but we did that, I still feel that we can do our jobs and work for the taxpayer here and give them a cut, too.”
Terziano told Withey that while she understood where he was coming from because at the end of the day there’s only one taxpayer, she said council and staff have done their job because a 0.35 per cent increase is close to zero. “So I think we are still the council for Huntsville and I think we have done a good job with our budget for Huntsville.”
In the end, whether to proceed with a 0.35 per cent increase was put to a vote and passed.
Among the projects and initiatives planned for 2021 are:
- Roads capital projects – $2,985,000
- Main Street Streetscape – $3,692,908 (total estimated project cost) of which $3,587,820 is included in this year’s roads capital budget (Huntsville paid $105,088 towards the project in 2020)
- Fire department anticipated pumper purchase – $450,000
- Port Sydney Beach proposed accessible path and significant repairs to the foundation of the beach pavilion – $219,000
- Needs assessment and potential design work for the building at the Madill yard – $100,000
- Sidewalk replacement program – $90,000
- Council initiatives include $45,000 toward the Community Improvement Program and a $41,500 contribution to the Winter Snowfest and Light Festival, a Huntsville Lake of Bays Chamber of Commerce initiative which is currently on hold due to COVID restrictions. Council has also committed to $46,656 of in-kind support for the festival, which has no net levy impact.
The budget includes the following pandemic-related relief funds provided by the province: $133,000 in 2021 Ontario Safe Restart Municipal Funding and $21,900 in 2021 Ontario Safe Restart Transit Funding.
You can find staff’s report and budget here.
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