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Woolwich currently targeting 3.55% tax hike

The average Woolwich taxpayer will be hit up for another $28 under planned increases in spending this year.

In the first of their 2017 public budget sessions, councillors identified spending requiring a base tax increase of 2.05 per cent plus another 1.5 per cent for a special infrastructure fund. The projected tax increase is based on a residential property valued at $340,000.

Overall, the township plans to spend $15.9 million in its operating budget and another $19 million for capital projects.

Meeting Jan. 12, councillors made a few small tweaks to shave a couple of dollars off the tax increase, but made no changes or reference to the underlying operation of the municipal government. Staff costs, up 46 per cent in the last decade alone – to $7 million in 2017 from $4.8 million in 2008 – proved the liveliest topic with a proposal to add two new positions, in part drawing on the township’s infrastructure fund.

Staff’s call for the addition of an infrastructure development coordinator at a salary of $62,582 to $76,320 and a development charges project supervisor ($75,375-$91,920) met with resistance from Coun. Patrick Merlihan, who noted the process could taint the special infrastructure levy.

He warned the public would feel “betrayed” if the money collected in the special levy was seen as going into staff operating costs.

“It’s a slippery slope at this juncture. That’s not how it was sold to the public,” he said, noting the optics would be bad. “I really don’t want anything to taint that fund.”

Coun. Mark Bauman, however, countered that infrastructure projects bring costs beyond simply the price of asphalt, for instance. People are needed to get the work done, he said.

The topic was dropped, however, to be revisited when the engineering and planning department budget is discussed next week.

In last week’s session, council gave tentative approval to some of the smaller department budgets, including the chief administrative officer, council and information services, finance and the fire department.

A second public budget session is planned for this evening (Thursday) at 6 p.m. at the township administration building.

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