By Jon Thompson
Although many questions remain in Dryden’s 2013 municipal budget saga, expenses continue to increase with certainty.
If passed today, the city would be running $2.2-million over budget, after $1.5-million in remuneration on the Dryden Mobility debt was added to its operating deficit.
City council intends to introduce a resolution on May 20 that would allow department budgets to begin flowing, which advocates argue will give managers the green light to begin administering plans for the year.
“Council won’t set the rate until we see what happens with a lot of different things,” explained Mayor Craig Nuttall, who has pledged to hold a tax increase to three per cent. “I’m in favour of passing the operating budget where departments can get together and start working.”
The department budgets will be based on the Apr. 9 draft version of the budget, which showed more than a $700,000 deficit. Although administration had a plan for paying the $1.5-million remuneration on the telephone debt, that figure was not included in draft budget projections.
“We knew it was there and I think we were hoping that it wouldn’t show up in this year’s budget but it is,” Nuttall said.
On May 14, Nuttall held the latest in a series of meetings with deputy ministers in the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, which hope to iron out a solution to the city’s industrial property assessment woes over the coming months.
A February Assessment Review Board (ARB) decision concluded the value of Dryden’s Domtar Mill fell from $50-million, past the expected $36-million to $14-million, absolving the corporation of $1-million in taxation for 2013 and requiring the city to pay retroactive taxes back to Domtar of $5.4-million plus $2.4-million in education taxes back to 2009.
Although Nuttall indicated Domtar is open to the potential for long-term payment plans, the Mayor remains optimistic that meetings with the province will yield a lower cost for the municipality if payment could be deferred or stayed.
“That’s my whole thing with MPAC is to delay it and then go back to them and say, ‘what are you guys going to do about all these problems?’ The ministry has a list of all the problems and we’re going to deal with all these problems with the two deputy ministers. Domtar has told us they’re interested in making payments but I didn’t realize we owed them money until MPAC is finalized. There are a lot of ifs and buts there.”