Woolwich maintains 4.85% tax increase target for 2022 budget

Woolwich residents can pencil in something like a five per cent increase in their township property taxes, as councillors this week stuck with preliminary targets for the 2022 budget

The4.85 per cent figure – a 2.5 per cent base increase, a 1.5 per cent special levy for infrastructure spending and 0.85 per cent for greening initiatives – was hit upon at an initial budget meeting last month. Meeting Tuesday night, councillors stuck with that figure, though they were divided.

As with the previous discussion, Coun. Murray Martin and Coun. Larry Shantz balked at the proposal.

“That’s a pretty hefty increase. It seems strange to me that, over the last year or two with COVID all we’ve heard is how people are struggling … and then we turn around and come with a 4.85 per cent increase and kick ’em in the butt. That doesn’t make sense to me,” said Martin.

“I can’t see us having a 4.85 per cent increase,” added Shantz, suggesting the township look at having builders meet greener requirements as way to offset the 0.85 greening levy.

Coun. Patrick Merlihan countered that the green levy is a pittance given the amount of work that needs to be done even with straightforward projects such as planting trees.

Given the township has a number of as-yet unfunded capital projects, cuts to the operating budget might be the only option, he said, adding that cutting services might not be particularly easy.

Director of finance Richard Petherick later noted that the township has been tightening its belt on the operations side, suggesting there may not be much wiggle room in the budget.

“Over the last number of years, we have leaned out our budget, especially the operating budget, quite significantly.”

With that in mind, Coun. Scott McMillan said the proposed budget increase is probably fine given that there’s an appetite for more services, not less.

“The amount of money that we’re asking for, I think if we surveyed the people in our township we would get a demand for more than that. I think the majority of our residents would demand more than what we’re doing on climate change,” said McMillan.

“I can understand 4.85 not being an easy sell, but I think it’s the right thing to do, and we need to do it.”

That figure will now be the starting point as staff prepares a first draft of the 2022 budget, with deliberations to begin in earnest at the start of the new year.

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