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Woolwich pairs tax increase down to 2.62%

A few last-minute tweaks to the 2018 budget will see Woolwich residents hit with a 2.62 per cent tax hike this year. That’s down from the 3.3 per cent target set when the budget process got started.

The new rate adds $21.71 to township portion of this year’s property taxes, based on an average assessment of some $360,000. Broken down, the increase sees a 1.12 per cent hike to the general tax rate plus 1.5 per cent in a special levy for future infrastructure projects.

Meeting for a fourth special budget session February 1, councillors made some final changes. Formal approval is expected on February 13.

On the capital side, the township is looking to spend $12.4 million this year, more than half of it on engineering projects. On the list are paving jobs totaling $1.3 million, bridge repairs requiring $1.8 million, sewer upgrades valued at $850,000 and road construction projects such as one slated for Hawkesville Road at a cost of $550,00.

Among the cost savings identified last week were some minor cutbacks on staff hours, with perhaps more in the offing. Councillors somewhat reluctantly approved the spending of $50,000 to $60,000 on an organizational review of township departments, in part due to the promise of identifying efficiencies.

For Coun. Larry Shantz, that offers the chance to reduce staffing costs, which have more than doubled in the past decade or so.

“Things are getting out of hand,” he said, proposing that efficiencies could “curtail the staff.”

Opposed to the study, Coun. Patrick Merlihan stressed that it would be more useful if it focuses on ways to reduce staff costs.

Across the board, growth has generally failed to provide benefit to existing residents. Likewise, the massive increase in staff numbers and costs have had little appreciable benefit to the public, he suggested.

Looking at those costs, councillors had no appetite for a management request to spend $5,000 on a market survey to compare Woolwich’s salaries to other municipalities. They did, however, approve $5,000 for a pay equity study, citing increasing legislative concerns.

As one-time studies, the money will be taken from the 2017 surplus rather than tacked on to this year’s levy increase, meaning no direct impact on this year’s taxes.

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