The Dryden Observer

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Council approves increased tax levy

Dryden ratepayers are in for an increase in the city’s tax levy, following council’s approval of an interim budget at their January 21 meeting.

“After numerous meetings between the senior management team and operation managers, with multiple drafts of the operating and capital budget plan developed, staff has a balanced budget to recommend to council,” reported Steven Lansdell-Roll, treasurer.

The city put forth a proposed property tax levy increase of $269,380, with no reduction in service levels, which council approved reluctantly, looking forward to 2021. There are $311,650 in city funds as available capital, with the remainder that would need to come from reserves without the increase. Dryden is also grappling with an estimated $133,000 reduction in Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) funding.

“In 2021 our major debt repayment schedule is going to change significantly,” said councillor Norm Bush. “We’re going to be through all of the major debt repayment and we’re going to drop our debt repayment requirements by about $2.3, $2.4 million dollars. I have every intention of bringing a motion forward to basically rebate our taxpayers in Dryden the amount of this particular increase, when we have $2.3 million dollars available to us that we don’t have available to us today. I view this as basically a loan to the city for three years,” Bush offered.

“I think that’s something I can wholeheartedly support,” added councillor Dave McKay, saying the decision puts Dryden on notice that there is a lot of work to be done in the next few years to rebate the increase and repay the loan.

Councillor Michelle Price said the idea of offering a rebate in 2021 is one of the only reasons she would agree to a tax increase. “I know that most people are having a hard time paying increases constantly,” she said. “It was my hope not do that but I do understand by looking at the budget and learning more about the budget that it has been scraped pretty much down to the bone.”

Councillor Martin MacKinnon related the increase to provincial downloading, saying, “We as a council have to defend ourselves more against the constant downloading of tax grabs from the provincial government. Every time we turn around they’re forcing us into a position where we have to assume more responsibility. We have to take on more recycling charges. We have to take on new laws that enforce how we plow our streets and significantly increase our ability to provide labour to do that. We still don’t know exactly what we’re going to be getting for 2019 from the Ontario government under that program,” he explained.

Because of the uncertainty, this budget is an interim decision that may require revision when staff has confirmation of 2019 OMPF funding, he explained. “The government might come back and there is no reduction from 2018. In that case, that frees up $133,000 we planned to be utilizing out of reserves for our capital plan.”

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