The town of Smiths Falls is still on track to pass its 2018 budget without increasing the burden on local taxpayers.
At a Dec. 18 meeting, councillors were presented with the second draft of the budget, which calls for no increase in property taxes. The draft does propose a two per cent increase in the rate for drinking water, and a three per cent increase in the wastewater rate. Also recommended is a $900,000 loan to help cover the cost of renovations to the town hall. A total of $8.1 million in capital projects is being proposed for 2018.
Although several councillors expressed reluctance to borrow money, the loan is necessary because the town will deplete its 2017 year-end surplus by having to pay close to $1 million to RioCan, former owners of the County Fair Mall.
RioCan appealed the assessed value of the mall property to the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC), which ruled in their favour and ordered the town to repay a substantial amount of property tax paid in past years by RioCan.
Chief Administrative Officer Malcolm Morris commented that savings found through in-depth reviews of the operations of town departments have helped the town achieve a balanced budget. “We were able to achieve a zero per cent tax increase because of the direction council has given us,” he said.
The final draft of the budget is to be presented Jan. 15, with plans to give it final approval on Jan. 29.
“The budget we have before us isn’t onerous on our taxpayers,” said Councillor Jay Brennan. “I’ll be happy to support it.”
Brennan commented that he is less happy about the ongoing situation involving the Confederation Bridge, which has been closed for two years. “I’ll say it again – we need the bridge fixed,” said Brennan. “I feel terrible that we haven’t taken responsibility and fixed it.”
Morris commented that the fate of the bridge may be tied to the eventual re-development of the vacant site of the old water treatment plant. The town has called for bids from potential developers, and Morris said that in three months officials should have a much better idea of how the site will be used in the future.