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Wellesley eyes 2.8 per cent tax levy increase in 2019 draft budget

Though not yet set in stone, Wellesley council is eyeing a 2.8 per cent increase to this year’s property taxes, according to a draft budget presented at a public meeting last week. That translated into an additional $36.96 a year in taxes for the average household in the township.

The increase is leaner than last year, which saw a levy hike of just shy of three per cent. Mayor Joe Nowak noted the township had started at a similar three per cent levy hike, and then worked its way down.

“I’m not sure we’ll be able to go much lower than that. The staff has done literally an amazing job of helping putting this budget together. It’s probably one of the best ones I’ve seen from staff,” said Nowak.

Based on an average household value estimated at $336,184, a 2.8 per cent tax increase would see households pay a total of $990 in property tax, up from last year’s $953. Coupled with a 1.07 per cent increase in assessed property values in 2018, the township’s total operating budget ticked upwards by two per cent, or $159,000, to a total of $7.9 million.

While a comparatively minor increase, to achieve the lower levy hike, the township had to dip into its tax rate stabilization reserves – essentially a rainy day fund. While the budget only increased $159,000, the budget called for $250,00 to be pulled out of township’s dwindling reserve. In 2017, the stabilization reserve was $839,000, while $290,000 was budgeted for 2018 (the official tally for 2018 has yet to be finalized).

It’s a practice the township is moving away from, drawing on reserves, said township chief administrative officer Rik Louwagie.

“We’ve actually reduced the amount that we’ve budgeted to take from tax rate stabilization. We’re trying to wean away from that one. The reserve is still doing quite well so far but eventually it may not be there, so we do want to try to away from it,” said Louwagie to councillors at the public meeting.

Tax revenues in the budget accounted for $4.8 million of that amount, while $800,000 is funded through higher-tier government grants.

Capital project expenditures are pegged at $5.9 million over the next two years, with road work alone accounting for half of that at $2.8 million. Of that, $800,000 will be paid through the township’s reserve funds, $1 million in provincial funding and $680,000 through the federal gas tax fund. Nowak noted road work was a priority in capital spending for the township.

Recreation capital projects also received a boost for 2019. St. Clements and Wellesley village received a combined $300,000, significantly to replace the light towers at the ball diamonds which had been torn down last year due to safety concerns.

The 2019 budget has yet to be formally adopted by the township, but councillors have expressed their intent to vote for the document at the February 5 council meeting.

Residents hoping to voice their concerns and comments to council will have to contact the township clerk ahead of the February meeting. The draft budget itself may be found on the township’s website.

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