Perth town council officially passed bylaw 2017-4644 (the 2017 budget) for the Town of Perth at the Feb. 21 meeting, and while it may have some residents jumping for joy because they won’t see a tax increase this year, it has left at least one resident very concerned.
Resident Dr. Ross Preston provided a statistical-based economic overview to council at the meeting and made his point very clear. “A zero per cent tax increase is a big mistake,” he said.
Preston used data from 2010 to 2015 for his report and it showed that during that time, revenues for the town did not grow, the switch to OPP created some cost savings, the cost of general government has grown but no efficiencies have resulted, and the cost of core services continues to increase. By not not raising taxes, he said, the town is not helping anyone.
Councillor Judy Brown agreed with him. Her recommendation was to raise residential taxes, stating, “a small increase each year to protect against the unexpected.”
She added in a follow up email that not increasing taxes “creates an unrealistic expectation that this can happen every year…and we do not know what all our capital needs will be in the future or if we have budgeted adequately for them.”
Councillor Jim Graff, asking how this could be done, wondered if an efficiency factor could be built in. “Yes. Look at policing. It’s there. The switch to OPP has created cost savings,” said Preston.
Preston predicted that if taxes aren’t raised, “[Perth] will be out $1,000,000 by 2020.”
As the province is asking towns to put asset management plans into place and follow through with financial plans, Preston’s knowledge is invaluable. Chief Administrative Officer John deRosenroll, said it’s clear that Perth “has work to do.”
“Between now and 2020, you’ll have to raise fees and rates or [the town] will get caught with not enough funds,” Preston explained. “You can’t do anything else than work smarter.
Despite this information, council recorded a vote on the matter- four in favour (Mayor Fenik, Councillor Gemmell, Councillor Boldt and Councillor Turner) and two against (Councillor Brown and Councillor Graff).
Mayor Fenik thanked Preston for his work and in-depth knowledge on the presentation. Preston promised,“You’ll get another one next year,” to great laughter.