Council turns down proposed tax decrease in 3-2 vote

BARRY’S BAY – Members of the finance and administration committee met on March 10 to discuss the second draft of the 2016 municipal budget. 
It was the final chance for the committee to provide input into the budget before it is presented for final approval at the March 21 regular council meeting.
The draft budget presented contained a levy requirement of $3,571,559, or a 0.91 per cent decrease over the amount raised through last year’s taxation.
“This draft translates to a proposed reduction to the municipal taxation portion of the tax bill of approximately $32.22 per $100,000 residential assessment,” Mayor Kim Love clarified.
She then asked how committee wished to proceed with the budget and offered members a chance for input.
Councillor Carl Bromwich kicked the discussion off. He said through conversations with other mayors/CAOs and from seeing statements from Ontario’s premier, he thinks it would be foolish to decrease taxes. 
“Short term gain with long term pain is not what this council should be all about,” Bromwich said. “We should be about looking at the future and what is anticipated coming down the pipe.”
Rather, he suggested that council should be increasing the taxes to coincide with the Consumer Price Index.
“Councillor Bromwich, I can’t disagree with you more,” Councillor Ernie Peplinski replied. “We have had a previous council that’s raised the taxes 33 per cent. I think it is incumbent of us to take control of this.”
Councillor Shelley Maika agreed, adding that for the past 10 years, she has kept hearing that council cannot lower taxes. She added that the municipality is in good financial shape and can afford to lower taxes.
“So I certainly, under no circumstance, do not support a tax increase,” Maika explained.
Maika cited that other than unpaid taxes and the wastewater system, the township has zero debt. Council also spent several days deliberating the budget, making cuts to several departments in order to accommodate a 0.91 per cent decrease. 
“At this stage of the game, I am happy where we are. If there were a few more cuts that would be fine too,” Maika explained.
Councillor Elser Lee Faith Archer said her position has always been not to raise taxes. She is particularly interested in developing a financial plan.
“Because going forward, it’s important for us to have a clear understanding of how much money we do need to reserve over the course of time, whether that’s beyond our 10 years in office or not,” she said.
Mayor Kim Love, meanwhile, said that she would advise against lowering taxes for the second year in the row. She explained that council lowered taxes by 1.77 per cent in 2015. 
In the second draft budget presented, $850,000 is being drawn out of the reserves with $482,000 going back in.
“My concern comes when we start to draw down reserves and not replace money and don’t have a plan,” Love said.
She added that in 2017, the municipality would have to purchase a new truck and there is $880,000 worth of construction being proposed. In 2018, a new loader will be needed, she added.
Love said she would also like to see a financial plan in place before lowering taxes once again.




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