by Colin Smith
Morinville property taxes may go up by four per cent next year, reflecting concern about deficits in the Town’s operating budget.
At the December 11 Council meeting third reading of a proposed 2019 budget that increased residential tax rates by three per cent had been moved, the final step in the budgetary process. This budget foresaw an operating deficit of $776,853.
Mayor Barry Turner then moved a budget amendment to increase the revenue the Town takes in during 2019 by the amount equivalent to a four per cent residential tax hike.
That will amount to about $97,000, bringing the operating deficit down to around $680,000. A tax increase of three per cent is proposed for 2020 in order to get the deficit under control.
“I think we are at the crucial point where we have to look at increasing our revenue or cutting services,” said Mayor Barry Turner. “I don’t think cutting services is the road we want to go down.”
The Mayor added that while this was probably the highest tax increase he had seen in his 17 years on council, it was not unreasonable given the $30 million rec centre project and the increasing levels of service being provided to the community.
The amendment passed four to three, with councillors Lawrence Giffin, Sarah Hall and Scott Richardson also in favour, while Stephen Dafoe, Rebecca Balanko and Nicole Boutestein were opposed. The 2019 budget itself passed with the same council members in favour or opposed.
During the debate Councillor Stephen Dafoe referred to the possibility of a one-time special levy for rec centre costs being employed to cover the revenue shortfall in lieu of the extra percentage point of tax.
“I’m not for or against a levy,” he said. “The thing about a levy is that it is just for a set period of time and isn’t compounding.”
A motion by Dafoe that Council examine the idea of a levy before the mill rate is finally set in the spring was passed.
If the four per cent tax increase is implemented, the average homeowner (with an assessment of $300,000) will pay $2,174.40 in municipal taxes, up $83.67 over 2018.
With a three per cent tax increase, the average $300,000 homeowner would pay $2,154.48 in property taxes, up $62.75 over 2018.
Also part of the budget is non-residential split mill rate of 1:1.1, to climb over a five -year period to 1:1.5.
As a result, taxes for the average non-residential property owner will go up 14.4 per cent, or $301 on a $300,000 commercial property.
Taxes for the average non-residential property owner will go up $278.20, for a total of $2,369.93 on a $300,000 assessment.
New operational spending proposed for 2019 totals $115,000. The budget includes the cost of hiring the equivalent of 9.21 permanent staff.
The Long Range Capital Plan includes proposed capital spending for 2019 of just over $20 million, with $1,224,858 going to new projects.
More information on the budget can be found on the Town website, www.morinville.ca.