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Woolwich taxes to rise by 2.44%

Woolwich residents will pay 2.44 per cent more in township taxes this year, adding $13.31 to the average home valued at $225,000.

Councillors finalized the 2011 budget Tuesday night, wrapping up deliberations that began last fall under the previous term of council.

The recreation and facilities budget proved the most contentious – the department had cost overruns of $550,000 last year – as staff juggled money to cover a 9.4 per cent increase in that area while keeping the overall hike to 2.44.

With the various operating budgets out of the way, councillors finally tackled the big-ticket items on the capital spending side. This year’s budget includes a relatively modest slate of infrastructure projects, scaled down from the past couple of years when stimulus money was flowing from Ottawa and Queen’s Park. The township also finished with its building spree that included the $23-million Woolwich Memorial Centre.

For 2011, the engineering and planning department plans to spend $3.6 million on road, bridge and sewer projects. The biggest single chunk is $1.1 million for the reconstruction of Mockingbird Drive in Elmira, which includes underground services. The township also plans to do $600,000 in paving, including stretches of Benjamin Road, King Street North and Reid Woods Drive.

Another $518,000 is earmarked for bridge work, predominantly engineering and environmental assessments needed for upgrades on Floradale Road, Glasgow Street and New Jerusalem Road.

On a smaller scale, some $130,000 has been allocated for new sidewalks and repairs to others.

Noting the plethora of road projects in Elmira, Coun. Mark Bauman pushed for the inclusion of Queensway Drive in St. Jacobs on the list of streets to get new pavement.

While admitting Queensway Drive is a mess, engineering technologist Richard Sigurdson explained the road is so bad it needs a full reconstruction. But other roads are a higher priority for that kind of expensive work.

Major reconstruction usually involves doing the underground waterlines and sewers as well.

As Elmira’s underground systems are much older, reconstruction is more pressing there, he said, adding that there are still parts of the towns with asbestos and lead in the piping.

Queensway Drive and few others in the same condition will likely get some patching over the summer, however.

In approving the capital budget, councillors agreed to debenture some $400,000 to cover the costs. The move was necessary to get some of the most pressing projects done in a timely manner, said director of finance Richard Petherick, calling the move prudent. The borrowing, which will not increase the tax rate, does not come anywhere near the township’s maximum debt repayment capacity.

The loans will be covered by allocating one percentage point of future assessment growth revenues, rather than raising taxes, he explained.

Not overly happy with the final product, Mayor Todd Cowan called on each of the department heads to find a five-per-cent cost savings leading into the next round of budget discussions in the fall.

The Woolwich increase for 2011 joins a 1.47 per cent hike approved last week by Waterloo Region council. That budget decision will add $21.65 to the average tax bill.

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