Merrickville-Wolford council passed the 2017 budget with a 4.09% increase at the council meeting last Monday evening.
Two per cent of the increase will be going towards an infrastructure reserve fund and 2.09% will be included in the capital and operating costs of the Municipality. This will put $55,000 into a reserve fund for the future, something that council and staff have deemed integral for the sustainability of the Municipality. At the public meetings held in Merrickville and Wolford to present the draft budget, many residents also thought this was a good idea. “This is good planning,” says CAO John Regan. “We have to start planning and saving for our future.”
John says he sees the public meetings as a success, with 33 people in attendance in Wolford and 35 in Merrickville. As a result of the meetings, the budget was altered to express the opinions and priorities of those in attendance. For example, they decided to take the asphalting of the parking lot near the skating rink out of the budget, at a cost savings of $16,000. They also decided to ramp up a project that will bring new benches to downtown Merrickville. “If we’re going to do something about park benches in downtown Merrickville, the 150th would be the year to do it,” John said. The project is budgeted at $6,000. Paving at the landfill site is also something that has remained in the budget, based on public opinion.
This 4.09% increase will equate to $33.07 per $100,000 in residential assessment. The tax rate will be affected by the county and school board levies, which will likely by out by the end of March. “It’s difficult to estimate [what the impact will be],” says Treasurer Sheila Kehoe. “Over the past couple of years, both the education and county tax rate have decreased.”
Council also approved an increase in water and wastewater rates of 10%. This is in line with a plan that was set in place in 2016 to move towards full cost recovery of the Municipality’s water and wastewater treatment system. The rate will continue to increase by 10% over the next four years, until 2021, when the cost of running the facility will be fully paid for by its users. Effective January 2017, the base user rates for water and wastewater will increase from $95.13 to $104.64 per unit per month. Commercial and institutional units will see their base water rate increase from $146.36 to $160.99 per unit monthly, and rates for metered water/wastewater will increase from $5.08 to $5.58 per cubic metre.
Even though the budget has been set, the CAO says that staff will continue to look for cost savings wherever they can. “Staff wants to come in under budget,” he told council. “If there is a surplus, it will go in to operating reserves.”