Huron-Kinloss boasts good financial position as it prepares to be debt-free

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News

By Barb McKay

When the final loan payment is made on the Lake Range Drive extension project this year, Huron-Kinloss Township’s finances will be in the black.

The news was joyfully received by township council during its first meeting to deliberate the 2017 municipal budget on Friday and councillors mused about how they could celebrate the occasion.

“How many municipalities can say they are debt-free?” Mayor Mitch Twolan asked rhetorically. “We don’t owe a penny to anyone.”

Township staff proposed an operating budget of $7.5 million and capital budget of $3.85 million, which would have required a 4.4 per cent tax rate increase. However, Treasurer Jodi MacArthur noted, the township experienced assessment growth this year which helped to offset the tax rate somewhat, resulting in a four per cent increase if council approved the budget as presented. Interestingly, while past assessment increases have been associated with residential properties, the most significant increases this time apply to agricultural land – 20 per cent compared to just one per cent on average for residential.

The blended tax rate increase, including the township, Bruce County and education taxes, is expected to be 3.17 per cent, if the township budget as it currently sits is approved. Residents with an average property value of $238,000 would see an increase of $17.34 on their property tax bill for 2017. Council, however, is attempting to reduce the tax burden and has directed staff to take another look at the budget to see if there are any savings that could bring the tax rate increase under four per cent.

Roadwork makes up a significant portion of the township’s capital budget for 2017 and Public Works Director Hugh Nichol will look to see if he can obtain better quotes from contractors. Projects include paving roads in Lurgan Beach as part of a water servicing project (dependent on when water lines are installed), paving Whitechurch Street and paving a two kilometre stretch of Concession 12. A proposal to pave all of Concession 6 within the township has been deferred to 2018.

Other capital projects included in the draft budget are the replacement of two bridges ($60,000) as part of the Royal Oak drain project; high volume hoses, an automated external defibrillator and auto extrication equipment for the Ripley-Huron Fire Department ($13,000); completion of the Ripley 4-H shelter ($11,700); paved pathways through Lewis Park in Ripley ($13,000); a new roof for the Lucknow Town Hall ($44,000); and various repairs and improvements to the Ripley-Huron Community Centre (approximately $100,000).

Council is also considering a number of requests for grants from local and regional organizations. Those include $5,000 for the Pine River Watershed Initiative Network (PRWIN), $5,000 for the Bruce Botanical Food Gardens (BBFG), $2,000 for Crime Stoppers of Grey-Bruce, $1,000 for the Ripley Business Community, $1,000 for the Ripley Agricultural Society and $1,000 for the MTO Cycling/Great Lakes Waterfront Trail.

Community Services Director Mike Fair said $500 of the trails request is for a membership fee with the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail organization and the township receives trails signage.

Council agreed with supporting the grant requests.

“I agree with the Bruce Botanical Food Gardens and the Pine River Watershed, but at some point they have to stand on their own,” said Councillor Don Murray.

“With the Pine River Watershed, for a $5,000 investment we receive about $80,000 in grants,” Twolan said.

The township has also been asked for a $20,000 contribution to the Municipality of Kincardine’s physician recruitment program. Council, however, is unsure of how much it should provide.

“We are not in an agreement – there is no obligation to fund it at all,” MacArthur noted.

Council decided it would like to take a look at Kincardine’s health care reserves before it makes a decision.

Council is expected to discuss the 2017 budget further at a meeting in March.