MUSKOKA - Taxpayers will see a one per cent increase in taxes for the District of Muskoka this year.
That will result in an increase of $2 per $200,000 property assessment as of Jan 2012.
Following several budget meetings, district council passed its final budget without any questions or discussion at a council meeting on Feb. 19.
District Chair John Klinck said he thinks it’s a very fair budget.
“I was pleased with the original budget from a political perspective. Having a zero budget sends a very clear message, but I don’t think one per cent isn’t something that we can’t all accommodate and move forward,” he said.
Councillors initially asked staff to provide a zero budget resulting in no increase to taxes, which staff achieved. Councillors later increased the net levy to one per cent by adding several items back to the budget such as support for senior programming, a future third-party district organizational review, and an environmental reserve. The increase was to prevent finding themselves behind in the future.
The final numbers included gross tax supported operating expenditures of almost $105 million, gross operating revenues of $42 million, and a net levy of $63 million in 2013.
Gross capital expenditures come in at $218 million.
Earlier in the budget process, Stephen Cairns, commissioner of finance for the District of Muskoka, voiced his concern about the district attempting to pass a zero budget.
“We live in a world where there is inflation, so when you say a zero net levy, you’re actually saying cut services,” he said.
“I think what they came down with was a reasonable budget considering the environment that we’re in right now, considering the challenges and public’s expectation.”
Areas that would have seen cuts with a zero budget are roads, debt reduction and active transportation. Cairns said by putting those back into the budget the district is addressing its strategic plan.
Though he gave his nod to the budget, he said coming in under inflation – which was a two per cent increase over the last 12 months - can’t be done forever.
“We have been stringing the net levy for a number of years,” he said. “We’ve been able to deal with it with some extra provincial funding that came in, by cutting back on items, nothing major, just every department sort of cutting back and looking at initiatives wherever they can.”
Earlier in the Feb. 19 meeting, Coun. Scott Young pointed out an upcoming third-party services review may not bring outstanding savings as the district already outsources 30 per cent of its business while other areas in Ontario outsource about 15 per cent.
“I just wanted to point that out that when we come back from our third party review and we’re not rolling in millions, nobody is surprised,” he said.
He said any significant savings would have to come from reserves, and while other efficiencies may be found, they would be “small potatoes.”
The district approved three third-party reviews in the 2013 budget.