So far, Huntsville Council is considering a 2.93 per cent tax increase for 2019. To put that into perspective, if your home has an assessed value of $300,000, you’d be paying roughly $1,143 this year for the Huntsville portion of your property tax bill—an increase of about $33 from 2018.
Huntsville’s portion represents about 45 per cent of the overall property tax and excludes District Municipality of Muskoka tax and education costs.
Some of the more significant items in this year’s draft budget include a 20 per cent increase to road work, bringing the total contribution for roads to about $2.3 million. The municipality will also be adding several new positions to its roster (see the breakdown below). The budget is also projecting $100,000 in revenue from the Municipal Accommodation Tax, which will be used to offset other related expenses to implement the program (see more on that below).
Another significant item involves increasing the pay grid for non-unionized municipal staff. Initially, the recommendation brought forward in December by the Town’s CAO and Manager of Human Resources, with the support of a consultant, recommended increasing the Town’s current pay bands to the 60th percentile when comparing what similar positions were being paid in other municipalities. That would’ve amounted to an increase in wages of $911,000 to be phased-in over three years. In light of the increase, the recommendation also postponed increases to the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA), which would have amounted to about $118,000 in 2019. Following closed session discussions on February 5, 2019, Council emerged with a resolution to implement pay bands that reflect the 35th percentile, which would instead amount to an increase of about $490,000, to be phased-in over three years. They also postponed adding COLA this year. When the increases were initially discussed in December, Huntsville CAO Denise Corry told Council that the benchmark positions used in the compensation market review conducted by the consultant were currently sitting in the 25th percentile, when compared to 11 other organizations—10 municipalities and one hospital. See that story here.
Huntsville councillors and department heads have been going through the proposed budget line by line since December, when staff first introduced a status quo budget without any new initiatives that would have seen the tax decrease with the help of reserves. At the time, councillors also heard that if all new initiatives proposed, both by municipal staff and councillors, were to be added in, residents would be looking at a 5.73 per cent tax increase and depleted reserves by 2022. See that story here.
As of Council’s last budget meeting on February 5, councillors and department heads have added new initiatives, taken out others, borrowed from reserves and increased projected revenues in order to arrive at a 2.93 per cent tax increase, which represents a total net levy (the amount of money to be raised through taxes) of $15.3 million, or a 6.87 per cent increase from 2018.
Some of what’s in
- $1,482,359 for ball diamonds at McCulley-Robertson Sports Complex to come from reserves. See story here
- $100,000 in projected revenue from the Municipal Accommodation Tax was added to offset $25,000 earmarked in the draft budget for the program’s administrative expenses as well as $75,000 associated with establishing the program
- $300,000 for Main Street development engineering design costs to come out of existing public works capital budget
- $50,000 to begin building a reserve for future software replacement needs
- $6,106 to continue webcasting municipal council meetings online
- $8,500 for National Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration to be offset by grants
- $25,000 for consultants for network security and network outsourcing
- $50,000 for a records management and privacy consultant
- $9,000 for HVAC electronic controls for all community halls to come out of reserves
- $27,200 for retrofit LED lighting at the Active Living Centre and the outside wall of the Canada Summit Centre, to come from Federal Gas Tax
- $14,800 for a roof over the Aspdin Hall ramp to come from reserves and a contribution of $5,000 from the Aspdin community
- $6,600 for Corporate-wide digital signage service (cloud and hardware)
- $7,500 for Summer Parking Ambassador Program. To be funded by BIA at $2,000 and revenue from parking fines
- $25,000 for downtown Community Improvement Plan update to come from reserves
- $40,000 for guide rail replacement program to be funded through capital contributions
- $45,000 increase to the library’s overall budget, which includes staff restructuring by reducing part-time positions and adding a new full-time position
- $547,548 to increase capital plan contributions in 2019 by 20 per cent for roads and 15 per cent for all other capital projects
Some of what’s out
- $289,138 for a new Curling Club (debenture for 20 years at 3.8 per cent for $4,000,000). See story here.
- $335,000 for Muskoka Heritage Place Pavilion, security, entrance (capital projects)
- $140,000 for Phase one of transit ridership growth plan deferred to 2020
- $185,581 for Muskoka Heritage Place business model to implement upcoming changes to the operation per Council adopted 2019 Master Plan
- $40,000 for Cultural Strategy Renewal to be considered in the Community Services Master Plan
- $10,000 for the Heritage Property Tax Incentives Development Program
- $35,000 to install and maintain larger flag at Lions Lookout
- $10,774 for a new main entrance lock system at Port Sydney and Stephenson Halls
- $9,000 to maintain flags annually after 2019
- $121,000 for a video surveillance system has been deferred while staff look for alternatives and bring a report back this year
- $220,000 for a winter sand covered structure deferred to 2020 and add money to reserves for two years to build funds. The budget working group made up of senior staff and council representatives Mayor Scott Aitchison, Deputy Mayor Karin Terziano and Councillor Brian Thompson are recommending to delay to a future year, although leaching will continue until the project is completed.
New staffing positions
Four full-time positions and one seasonal position was added to the draft budget. The numbers below reflect the impact of those hires in salaries, wages, benefits and start times on the 2019 budget.
- $13,500 for one seasonal parks staff for high traffic areas
- $32,165 for one full‐time position at the Algonquin Theatre, which would replace two part-time positions
- $46,667 for a full-time human resources generalist position
- $64,167 for a full-time position in the finance department as well as department restructuring
You can find a full list of what’s in and what’s out at this link (pdf).
The draft 2019 budget, as it currently stands, will be forwarded to Council’s February 25 meeting to be further discussed and/or ratified.
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