The 2023 municipal budgets were unanimously approved by Meaford’s council during their March 27 meeting.
Ratepayers in the municipality will see a 4.46 percent increase on the municipal portion of their property tax bills in 2023, though when blended with the county and education rates, the increase for 2023 will be roughly 3.16 percent.
The increase will cost the average Meaford homeowner roughly $10 per month more than they paid last year.
Inflationary pressures added to council’s challenge during this year’s budget process, with members of council acknowledging the impact of high inflation rates throughout budget discussions.
The draft budgets presented to council on January 30 required a rate increase of more than 7 percent, however over two full days of budget discussions, that proposed increased was chipped away by council, helped along by revenue from projected growth in 2023 of $282,000, shaving an additional 1.36 percent from the required rate increase.
A lightly attended public engagement session was held on February 8 to receive initial feedback on the draft budgets. After council’s two days of budget deliberations, preliminary approval was given to the revised 2023 budgets. The statutory public meeting was held on March 20, with just one member of the public attending to comment on the budgets. That lone ratepayer questioned the size of municipal staff, though members of council defended the number of municipal employees, stating that any discussion of a reduction of the number of staff must be held in conjunction with discussions of services to reduce or eliminate.
As has been the practice in recent years, the draft budget includes a 1% tax levy increase dedicated for roads capital funding, a 1% levy increase for capital funding for bridges, as well as a 0.5% levy increase dedicated to municipal facility capital funding.
Also included in the operating budget is a 2.5% cost of living increase for municipal staff.
Pressures on the 2023 municipal budgets include the cost of Meaford’s insurance policy premiums, which increase by 14% in 2023, adding $31,610 to the budget. Other increasing costs include fuel, which is expected to cost the Municipality $66,000 more in 2023 than the previous year, the Grey Sauble Conservation levy increases by $10,580, and Meaford’s contract with the Owen Sound North Grey Regional Public Library is increasing by $6,470.
In 2023, the Municipality is expected to see an increase in their Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) allocation, from $1,241,600 to $1,311,400, an increase of nearly $70,000.
The 2023 budgets include new capital projects amounting to more than $14 million, for a total capital program for 2023 including carryovers from the previous year of more than $17 million.
Users of the municipal water and wastewater system will see their rates increase by 8 percent again this year.
With the budgets approved, the Municipality must now wait for the County to set the tax ratio By-law to finalize the individual tax bills. This is expected in April, which is prior to the Municipality sending out the final tax bill in late June.