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Wellesley approves 2016 budget, with tax increase of 2.443%

Wellesley homeowners will pay an additional $23 this year on the township portion of their tax bills, as councillors meeting Tuesday night approved a 2.443 per cent tax increase.

The increase stayed the course set out after the special budget meeting on Jan. 19, with an increase of $22.87 per year, or $1.90 a month, based on the average residence valued at $318,000.

The tax hike will see the township’s budget grow by $100,009 in 2016, explained treasurer Theresa Bisch.

The budget portion of the regular council meeting started with a public meeting, but no Wellesley ratepayers showed up.

The total revenue expected for Wellesley in 2016 is $7,341,866 – $4,273,872 coming from taxes, just over $1 million in general revenue, and $742,850 coming from recreation.

Every dollar is accounted for this year, with expenditures matching revenue. The township is planning on spending the most money in public works with an expenditure of $2,748,830, $1.2 million of that is slated for road work and improvements.

The next highest expense in 2016 is recreation and facilities, coming in significantly lower than public works at $1,579,000.

Nineteen per cent of the township’s operating expenditures will be going into the capital projects reserve fund, stowing it away for large future projects.

Coun. Carl Smit was curious about a small expenditure, amounting to $103,560, or less than two per cent of the total budget, allotted for long-term debt repayments.

“We have some debentures on a few of our buildings still. There is a debenture on the township office and there is one on the ball diamond,” said Bisch, explaining where the money was going. “It is things that the township entered into a debenture for quite a long time ago. We will see that happen again if we want to invest in large items that we can’t fund immediately. Sometimes it makes fiscal sense.”

Questions arose about the grants line in the revenue portion of the draft, amounting to $599,444. Mayor Joe Nowak was curious as to whether that included the federal gas tax payment. The gas tax payment was ear marked for spending on capital projects, with different rules surrounding the money coming from the federal government.

“It isn’t an unconditional grant. It is actually directed to capital projects,” said Bisch. “It doesn’t go into the operating budget at all. We also get the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund grant, but that is also a conditional grant. It can’t be used for operations.”

Before the budget came to council for the final vote, Bisch was asked to pull together data, comparing Wellesley Township tax rates to surrounding municipalities. The data showed that Wellesley is running middle of the pack.

In 2015, Wellesley residents paid an average of $3,725 in taxes, or 4.3 per cent of the average annual income. The provincial average is at $4,103. In Woolwich, residents pay 3.4 per cent of their annual income in taxes, the lowest of the surrounding townships. Mapleton pays the highest percentage of average income at 5.2 per cent.

The budget was passed in a quick vote later in the meeting during the administration and finance committee report, with all in favour.

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