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Port Hope budget increase comes in at 4.7%

Cecilia Nasmith

By Cecilia Nasmith, Northumberland Today

Port Hope Town Hall

Port Hope Town Hall

PORT HOPE - 

The municipal portion of the tax bill Port Hope residents will see (apart from the county and education components) will grow by 4.7% for 2017.

This is the adjusted amount after taking into account a 1.8% increase in weighted assessment, compared to a 2% increase in 2016 after 3.3% growth.

The total 2017 tax-levy requirement was determined to be $18,324,710, the municipality’s press release said, and the increase is consistent with the Community Strategic Plan that calls for an annual increase in capital funding to be able to maintain existing infrastructure.

In 2017, this $1.6-million capital-funding levy will purchase two new snowploughs as a start on replacing the aging roads fleet, with $500,000 going into a reserve toward long-term infrastructure sustainability.

The press release quotes Mayor Bob Sanderson in listing other key Community Strategic Plan projects, “including the development of riverside trails, as well as projects that due to timing of grant funding opportunities present a great opportunity to address existing infrastructure needs, such as the Wladyka Park washroom replacement and the Augusta Street storm sewer relining.”

Interviewed later, treasurer David Baxter expanded on the Community Strategic Plan, acknowledging that growing this commitment by $500,000 each year is an on-going challenge.

“It really means almost a 3% increase to the levy each year,” he said. “But it’s really necessary in order to maintain our infrastructure.”

For 2017, the commitment was up to $1.5-million, and additional projects from the budget committee made it close to $1.6-million. For 2018, they obviously plan on $2-million for this commitment.

“That’s the plan — to increase by half a million dollars each year,” Baxter said.

People have questioned it, he added, but seem to accept the necessity.

“It’s not to grow, not to do new infrastructure, but really just to be able to maintain the infrastructure we have now and set up a program to be financially sustainable.

“One of the neat things behind that is, we are purchasing two new snowploughs this year. If we hadn’t been increasing our capital funding, we wouldn’t have been able to do that. At best, we would have been struggling to purchase one. But we have a huge aging fleet that really needs it.

“Certainly that’s the biggest change driver in this year’s budget, and is going to continue to be the biggest challenge.”

Another emerging issue is the requirement for an asset-management program, a challenge common to many municipalities besides Port Hope.

“It’s looking at what we have now and how much do we need to be putting aside each year to be able to sustain it. That’s one part,” Baxter said.

“The other part is, we are now starting to know just what our needs are going to be and what are the things we can do without.”

Baxter cited the snowplough purchase as an example of asset management at work.

“Snowploughs used to be tandem-axle, which cost over $100,000 more than a single-axle. Our transportation manager has looked at our needs and identified that we can replace one of our tandem-axles with a single-axle in the urban areas, and that will save us over $100,000,” he said.

“That’s part of the asset-management process — do we need everything we have today. Sometimes you identify that what we are going to replace actually will end up costing more, because your needs have increased or you need more functionality or, these days, accessibility.

“There are other factors. You won’t always replace exactly what you have.”

Municipal budget discussions started with the budget committee in September. The proposed budget was reviewed and amended during two full-day meetings on Jan. 24 and 25, before advancing to council for final approval.

All meetings of the budget committee are open to the public, advertised on the website and local papers. Agendas are posted on the municipal website, and the community is encouraged to participate in the budget process.

Detailed information on the approved municipal budget is available at www.porthope.ca/budget.

cnasmith@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/NT_cnasmith 



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