Municipality eyes up 4.47 per cent tax rate increase

2018 budget includes start to Highway 9 and 21 work, community projects


By Barb McKay


The Municipality of Kincardine is looking at a relatively conservative budget for 2018 with an anticipated tax rate increase of 4.47 per cent.


Council held its third budget meeting on Jan. 29 where it debated some of the more costly line items that remained in the draft budget. In the end, council came up with a budget that satisfies a number of community organizations and citizen groups. Although largely decided, the budget has not yet been officially passed. Another meeting has been scheduled for Feb. 13.


Council has faced significant pressure from local groups this year to move forward with proposed projects that have been in the queue for several years. It agreed early on in the meeting to build washrooms and a canteen at the Bruce Avenue soccer fields, at an estimated cost of $230,000, and pay for playground equipment in the new Stonehaven Community Park, at a cost of $42,350.


In order to pay for those projects, council elected to hold off on establishing a municipal fleet reserve fund, which it had planned to populate this year with an anticipated $500,000 dividend from Bruce Telecom. A portion of the dividend will instead go to those two projects.


Councillor Laura Haight urged council to consider saving the remaining half of the dividend as the municipal fleet is aging.


“Can the remaining dividend be placed in a good faith reserve for the fleet or are we going to spend that before the night is done?” she asked.


As it turned out, council did make plans to spend it. The remaining $250,000 will be put towards the first phase of work to extend municipal services to the business park at Highways 9 and 21. The servicing project in its entirety is expected to cost $11 million. Council agreed to have the municipality fund the first part of phase one, which involves replacing water and sewer pipes on Russell Street from Scott Street across Highway 21. The municipality will also undertake a study of the pumping station to see if there is enough capacity to accommodate new development in the business park and if upgrades are needed. Work planned for this year is expected to cost $900,000.


Mayor Anne Eadie said she would like to see the project at least get underway.


“This is the logical place to start,” she said.


“I agree,” said Public Works Director Adam Weishar. “One of the first things we need to do is get the services across Highway 21.”


He added that all the necessary approvals are in place to start work, with the exception of Ministry of Transportation approval. He said there will be additional environmental assessment work required through each phase of the project, including archeological assessments and stormwater management work, which is typical.


Deputy Mayor Jacqueline Faubert said that people have commented that this has been a decade coming, but in reality the environmental assessment approval from the province was only handed down in the fall of last year.


It is unclear at this point where the remaining funds will come from to upgrade the municipal services, but assurances were made that it will not be put on the tax rate. Councillor Andrew White asked if there was potential for the municipality to borrow internally, through a water or wastewater reserve, and if there would be savings by doing so.


Haight noted that the municipality still has to pay itself interest when borrowing internally. Treasurer Roxana Baumann said there could be some savings but council should be cautious because the municipality needs to have reserves in place for other projects that come up. Kincardine drew from its reserves to pay for upgrades to the Connaught Park pumping station.


CAO Sharon Chambers said the municipality has requested to have a delegation meet with the Ontario Minister of Infrastructure at the Ontario Good Roads Association conference in Toronto at the end of this month to talk about infrastructure funding.


There were a number of proposed projects that did not make it into this year’s municipal budget. Council agreed there is not enough money available to move forward with the construction of a pavilion in Inverhuron this year, but Councillor Randy Roppel said he would like to see if considered in 2019. The third phase of interior renovations to the Kincardine Arts Centre was also deemed too costly at $465,000, but the leaky roof will be repaired at a cost of $100,000. Funds for that work will be taken out of the Arts Centre reserve fund.


While council had considered funding a post-operation noise study of the Armow Wind project at a cost of $80,000, the study was removed from this year’s budget. Municipal staff pointed out a clause in the agreement between the municipality and Armow Wind that indicated that the threat of legal proceedings against the company (which the results of the study could be used for) could put the substantial annual payment from Armow Wind for a community benefit fund at risk.


Council agreed to move the new Tiverton community centre project forward by hiring engineers to develop the design for the facility and prepare documents so the project is ready to be put out for tender when financing is available. (For further details see page 9.)


Should council pass the 2018 budget with a 4.47 per cent increase to the residential tax rate, households with an average property valued at $244,000 could expect an increase of $67.04 on their tax bill. However, combined with the county and education tax rates, the overall tax rate would sit at 1.52 per cent, which amounts to an increase of $44.09 on the average tax bill.