A municipal budget with no tax increase tends not to generate much controversy. With Smiths Falls town councillors confident that their 2018 town budget won’t be a bitter pill for residents to swallow, they voted to approve the third and final draft at a Jan. 15 meeting.
“That was by far probably the earliest date we have passed our budget,” commented Mayor Shawn Pankow.
Although taxes for individual ratepayers won’t go up (unless the assessed value of their homes increases), the budget does call for modest hikes in the rates paid for drinking water and sewage treatment.
In a report presented to council, Treasurer Janet Koziel stated that, “Due to inflationary pressures and operational considerations, staff are recommending a proposed water rate increase of two per cent which will result in additional water revenue in the amount of $48,800 and a wastewater rate increase of three per cent which will result in additional wastewater revenue in the amount of $73,971.”
The budget also includes a plan to borrow a maximum of $900,000. This led Councillor Joe Gallipeau, who argued that the town should draw on reserves rather than borrow, to vote against the final draft. In a recorded vote, all other members of council voted to support it.
The budget calls for the town to spend $23 million, while taking in revenues of about $25.3 million, and transferring $2.2 million to capital reserves.
The town has applied for a provincial grant of over $900,000 for the first phase of Beckwith Street reconstruction. Staff have also submitted an application to the Connecting Links Program for $1.5 million for the same project.
Another major project in 2018 will be renovations to the town hall complex, and the possible construction of a town square. The first phase of that project, reconstruction of the economic development department, will cost an estimated $200,000. The cost of the second phase is estimated at $1.5 million. A private donation of $100,000 has been received to pay for a band shell as part of the town square project.
Councillor Jay Brennan said that “in a perfect world” the budget would include funds to replace the Confederation Bridge, which remains closed to traffic. However, said Brennan, “I’m certainly going to support the budget.”
Councillor Dawn Quinn paid tribute to the professionalism of staff in making the approval process run smoothly, compared to the marathon sessions of the past. “I really appreciate all the work that has been done by staff,” said Quinn. “I’ve been here long enough to remember some of these budgets, and they were just horrible.”
“The staff are working very hard to bring the wishes of council to fruition,” agreed Councillor Chris Cummings.