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Woolwich sees large increase in spending as budget deliberations begin

Woolwich residents are still looking at a 4.85 per cent tax hike as township council this week got the 2022 budget deliberations underway.

That amounts to an extra $45.75 on the township portion of a property with an assessed value of $418,000. The target includes a 2.5 general tax increase, 1.5 per cent for a special infrastructure levy and 0.85 per cent for greening projects.

The township is looking at an operating budget of just over $21 million, an increase of 8.4 per cent over the 2021 budget. The gap between general tax increases and the large spending jump is covered by a projected 4.29 per cent in new assessment growth as construction of new homes continues, director of finance Richard Petherick told councillors meeting Monday night via videoconference.

As Coun. Larry Shantz noted, that amounts to an additional 9.14 per cent in funding being extracted from Woolwich taxpayers.

Part of the new assessment growth will be used to cover the addition of four staff members to work on the township’s roads.

On the capital side, Woolwich proposes to spend $25.5 million.

Director of infrastructure services Jared Puppe noted staff is looking for $5 million in funding via debentures, noting even with that the township is falling behind on the “bread and butter” items such as road and bridge work.

“We’re actually short about $2.2 million in both our paving and capital bridge accounts. That would say to me that revenues are not lining up.”

Coun. Patrick Merlihan, however, the prospect of borrowing for such projects raised some concerns.

“I can understand using debenture when you have a big project like the WMC, that’s something that a community has got to go into debt for and we pay it back as you go. But when we’re starting now to look at just maintaining our infrastructure and road paving and things like that, that’s a problem,” he said.

Shantz, too, noted the prospect of increased carrying costs for borrowing was worrisome, especially given a forecast of $13 million in debentures in 2023.

The township’s current external debt is $2.6 million, with another $3.76 million proposed for 2022. That brings it close to the threshold of the $230 debt per capita limit set by council in 2009 ($289 in today’s dollars), said Petherick.

Council budget deliberations continue January 13.

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