Budget talks underway this week, Woolwich council is looking at five per cent hike in property taxes, a move that would add $43.82 a year to the tax bill of an average home valued at $394,000.
The 2020 budget proposes a 3.49 per cent base increase plus a 1.5 per cent special levy for infrastructure projects.
The first draft discussed Tuesday night includes an operating budget of $18,690,392, an 8.5 per cent increase over the $17,098,925 in the 2019 budget.
Along with the tax increase, the additional spending would be covered by hikes in fees and charges, as well as an expected 1.98 per cent increase in revenues due to new assessment brought on by growth, with much of the additional money earmarked for another round of staff additions.
Staff costs are forecast to hit $8,374,756 an increase of 9.2 per cent over the $7,600,394 in the 2019 budget, and 17.8 per cent since $6,888,310 in 2017.
One of the new positions is a roads supervisor, with the township looking at other staff additions in the infrastructure services department, whose budget was discussed by councillors January 7.
Department director Jared Puppe proposed adding two seasonal workers to deal with snow-plowing duties, noting the staff is spread thin, with no wiggle room in the event of a protracted snow episode or for workers calling in sick, for instance.
“There’s no redundancy,” he said in pointing out the road crew would need five full-time roads operators just to match the next-closest township in the region, Wilmot.
When Coun. Larry Shantz pointed out the 2020 numbers for wages related to snow clearing were similar to the 2019 budget, director of finance Richard Petherick explained the estimates for this year take into account lower overtime pay to help offset the seasonal labour.
For Coun. Murray Martin, this year’s mild winter was reason for concern about adding more bodies.
“Are we going to have them sitting around?”
Puppe, however, noted there would be plenty of work for the new additions, from service locates to pothole filling and truck maintenance.
Following a discussion about outsourcing, Puppe added that much of the work, particularly grading gravel roads in the rural area, is best done by in-house staff. He noted, however, that with the retirement of some of the experienced equipment operators, the township has to make an effort to ensure the newer drivers get proper training.
“The young operators are learning on job, which is the best way to learn,” he said, noting experienced drivers are more efficient than contracting out the work.
“We need to become a little more skilled in areas where we can,” he added of the ongoing training efforts.