Over the course of two full days of budget discussions held on February 24 and March 1, Meaford’s council managed to bring the required rate increase for 2023 down from 7.1 percent as presented in the draft budgets to roughly 4.5 percent, which will mean a blended rate increase of 3.2 percent in 2023 for Meaford ratepayers.
The increase, should it remain unchanged by the time council is expected to vote on the budgets on March 27, will cost the average home owner in the municipality roughly $120 extra in 2023, or $10 per month.
Members of council expressed a desire to reduce the required increase as much as possible, noting the financial pressures being faced by all after more than a year of significant inflation.
“People are feeling the pinch,” noted Councillor Tony Bell. “They’re feeling the pinch at the grocery store, they’re feeling the pinch when they go to the fuel pumps, they’re making decisions about whether they’re going to buy groceries, clothing, or what they’re going to do without. And as a municipality, when we have ratepayers, some who through the course of hard work, or family, who are very well off, I also get to talk to some people who are not, and they are making those decisions. Rents are going up, mortgages are going up, Bank of Canada rates are going up, so people are going to feel it, and I just think that with everything that’s transpiring, even in the farming community, with world events, and fertilizer, or maybe the lack thereof, what the returns are going to be in the farming community, and we have a lot of farmers in our municipality. So when we set out to do this, and we have a percentage that ultimately will be presented to everyone who lives here, I just want them to know, and I’m sure we all have, we take all of these things to heart, and that we do try desperately, and work hard, so when we present a percentage increase, that we have done our job, and rolled up our sleeves.”
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 are increasing 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 expects 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.
After the two full-day budget sessions, council managed to find some areas to cancel or delay projects, along with opportunities to use reserve funds in order to lessen the required rate increase for 2023.
Council’s efforts resulted in a significantly lower rate increase for 2023, from 7.1 proposed in the draft budgets to roughly 4.5 percent. When combined with the county and school board rates, the blended rate increase for 2023 is expected to be approximately 3.2 percent.
Last month, Grey County council approved their draft budget, which will see a 1.48% rate increase in 2023 on the county portion of ratepayer tax bills.
Council voted in favour of approving the revised budgets, and to present the updated budgets to ratepayers at a statutory public budget meeting on Monday, March 20, at 5 p.m.
Meaford staff anticipate that final approval of the 2023 budgets will take place on March 27, leaving ample time for ratepayer engagement. The Municipality is still receiving and publishing budget questions from ratepayers, along with answers from staff during the course of the budget process. Questions can be submitted by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, calling 519-538-1060 ext. 1746, or by dropping by the Administration Office, located at 21 Trowbridge Street West, during regular hours of operation.
Those wishing to provide feedback to members of council directly can email email@example.com.
More information on the Municipal Budgets, including the schedule and how you can get involved can be found at www.meaford.ca/Budgets. Paper copies of the budget are available upon request.