I attended the budget meeting in Oxford Mills that took place on the evening of Tuesday, January 28. There are some things that I learned which should be of concern to property taxpayers.
It appears that about $5.5 million will be spent from capital reserves in the next three years on parks and recreation. I did not get a clear and detailed answer as to where all this money is to be spent. For comparison, $14 million will be spent in the same period on public works. So it looks like this council, over the next three years (before the next election), intends to spend on parks and recreation an amount of capital from reserves equivalent to 40% of the capital expenditures that will be spent on public works. I assume the public works capital expenditures include the sewer and water system in Kemptville, so taking this into account, it looks like parks and recreation capital expenditures will be almost as much as that spent on roads. Given that the Municipality has a horrendous infrastructure deficit in roads (130 kilometers of dirt roads), culverts and ditches needing repair and upgrading, it seems this council has its priorities in the wrong place.
I read a perceptive article by Bonnie Robinson in the North Grenville Times (Dec. 4, 2019 issue), where she addresses the issue of too much money being spent on parks and recreation (i.e.“wants”), while not enough attention is being paid to upgrading dirt roads to tar and chip (i.e.”needs”). She says she waited 21 years for her dirt road to be “chip and tarred”. She also mentions that “There is currently $60,000 in the recreation reserve, a far cry from the $1.3 million.” So, if there is only $60,000 in the recreation reserve, how is it that council will be spending $5.5 million from the reserves for parks and rec.?
Taxpayers should be very alarmed by the budget projections regarding increases in their property taxes. If you add the MPAC phase-in increase of 2.2% to Council’s rate increase of 1.9%, the average property tax increase due to the Municipality will be 4.1%. Now this number does not reflect the new MPAC assessments which are coming soon to a mailbox near you. I expect that 2.2% MPAC phase-in from your 2016 assessment will look like chump change compared to your new assessment. I hope I’m wrong, but new assessments could increase by as much as 30-40%.
Even if the average assessment increase is only, say, 20%, that means your property taxes could be going up an average phase-in amount of 5%, plus the 1.9% Council approved rate increase, for a total of 6.9%. Almost a 7% per year increase in your property taxes! Even 4.1% is too high, considering that GDP growth hovers around 2%, and the official inflation rate is less than 2%. How sustainable is this? Also, the Municipality is already getting $432,607 in assessment growth (a 3% increase in collected taxes) from new residential and commercial construction.
Where is the concern for the impoverishment of property taxpayers? When are property taxpayers going to wake up and realize they are getting the shaft from their elected representatives?