Huntsville Council passes a 2.84 per cent property tax increase

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Residential property owners will see an increase of 2.84 per cent on the Huntsville portion of their property tax.

Huntsville Council passed an estimated $15.3 million budget, a 6.7 per cent levy increase from last year, at a special meeting held on March 18, 2019. The increase means a house with an assessed value of $300,000 will be taxed $1,142 this year—or $31 more than last year.

Deputy Mayor Karin Terziano has been keeping an eye on the budget. “My goal is always to keep the increase down as much as possible, but the thing I realize at the end of the day is we have a lot of services that we provide in Huntsville—there’s a lot of things that people do, from driving on the roads to using the pool and the ice surface and the ball diamonds and the library—we actually provide maybe more services to our community… than maybe another community of the same size that actually has a higher tax rate,” she said.

I know people hate taxes and I do too, but when you look at your tax bill and you actually start figuring out all the services that it provides, it’s not bad. My Cogeco bill seems to be higher.Deputy Mayor Karin Terziano

“Everybody uses something different, but everybody uses something and we live in a society where everybody pays for everything… and I know it’s hard. If you’re struggling to pay your taxes, even a $30 increase is hard,” she said.

Included in this year’s budget is an increase in non-unionized staff salaries, but not the increase recommended by senior staff in December. Their recommendation was made on the heels of a consultant’s report that found that the majority of non-unionized salaries at the Town were below the 50th percentile of market comparators. Their recommendation called for an expenditure of $911,000 to be phased-in over four years in order to bring the pay rate for non-unionized positions up to the 60th percentile of market comparators. But that recommendation did not meet with council approval. Instead, council members worked with staff to tighten the budget and come up with an estimated $490,000 this year to bring non-unionized staff positions up to the 35th percentile of the pay rate when compared to similar positions in other organizations. Staff will also not receive a cost of living allowance (COLA) this year.

Some of the reductions made to the budget in order to achieve the increase to salaries while mitigating the impact on the property tax included removing proposed new hires for parks as well as a new full-time front of house position for the Algonquin Theatre. The latter did get more part-time hours, which increased the tax rate by 0.1 per cent, from 2.74 to 2.84 per cent just before the budget was finally passed. Affordable housing rebates set aside for the year were also removed and corporate consulting and legal fees were reduced. You can find a full list of the items either removed or reduced here.

Huntsville Councillor Brian Thompson referred to the decision to bring pay rates up to the 35th percentile as a compromise. While Councillor Jonathan Wiebe noted that he was assured none of the cuts made in order to fund salary increases would compromise safety.

“Senior staff worked very hard to help us find the money within the 2019 budget to accomplish and implement this in one year as opposed to three and I just want to say it’s a really good thing,” said Terziano. “It’s good for staff, but it’s also good that we won’t have the challenges in 2020 and 2021 to find the other pieces to this puzzle.”

As for capital expenditures this year, some of the more significant items involve work to the McCulley Robertson ball diamonds at about $1.4 million, $96,000 for an access ramp from the parking area by Town Hall to the Main Street, which is currently cordoned off. The budget also calls for spending about $3.3 million on roads this year. You can find more information about capital expenditures planned for this year, including roads at this link.

After the meeting Terziano said staff and council have been trying to spread out expenditures over four years to minimize annual deficits, “so we’re trying not to drive all of our reserves into a negative… we’re just trying not to do everything in one year.”

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3 Comments

  1. Yes, we all hate taxes …BUT… if we want the services, they come at a cost.
    Just sticking to the rate of inflation won’t cut it if your trying to move your community and Muskoka, in general, ahead as a tourism and place to live destination.
    So, I’ll add my complaint … could you not have stuck to a rate of 2.8399 % :-))
    Thanks Folks.

  2. Kudos! One can only hope that the District is as careful with their expenditures. Re Councillor Wiebe’s query: I realize that the ball diamonds’ safety has been improved; but I’m concerned about the soccer pitch(es). Have they been included in the budget; at least for minimal inspection and improvements?

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