Morris-Turnberry eyes tax rate decrease - Jan. 25, 2018
BY DENNY SCOTT
Morris-Turnberry staff put council in an enviable position last week by presenting a draft budget including a municipal tax rate and overall tax rate reduction.
The budget represents 2.98 per cent increase to the tax levy, a decrease in the municipal tax rate of 6.84 per cent and an overall tax rate decrease of 7.7 per cent. Landowners with minimal assessment increases may actually see a tax reduction this year under the current draft budget.
The draft budget was presented on Jan. 18 during a special council meeting.
Budget costs will actually be reduced even further as a result of council decisions made at last week’s meeting.
Council first reviewed the Building Department budget presented by Chief Building Official Kirk Livingston. While there were some changes as a result of Livingston no longer serving Howick and only working for Morris-Turnberry and North Huron, the only issue council had was with a new vehicle being purchased for Livingston.
Currently, Livingston uses his own vehicle for work and is paid mileage by the municipality. He had proposed purchasing a vehicle as a result of a surplus in the 2017 budget in the department.
The department had a total surplus of nearly $90,000 and Livingston suggested $32,000 be spent on the new vehicle.
Mayor Paul Gowing explained that the surplus was in a department that should be aiming for cost recovery, so it needed to be spent on Building Department projects, however other councillors felt the money should be put in reserves.
Councillor Sharen Zinn asked if Livingston was originally hired with the knowledge he would be driving his own vehicle and getting mileage. Livingston said he was, prompting Zinn to say she would like to see it remain that way at least for another year.
Council decided to put the money in reserves and have Livingston provide a report at the end of the year outlining how much his mileage cost the municipality versus the savings of buying the new vehicle for next year’s budget process.
The public works, cemeteries, landfill and Belgrave water systems budgets were all presented by Public Works Director Mike Alcock.
In the public works budget, Alcock had provided a three-year average for individual expenses and council members, seeing that expenses were expected to be over those three-year averages for some items, told Alcock to reduce his over-all budget by $100,000.
Council felt that, while the 2017 and 2018 budgets were comparable, the 2017 actual expenses were significantly lower than the 2018 budget, and wanted Alcock to bring those two numbers closer.
Alcock tried to explain that efficiencies were realized in 2017 and some projects didn’t happen due to factors that limited the amount of work the public works staff could do. However council felt that shaving $100,000 from a $4 million budget was feasible.
Major expenditures in the roads budget included:
• $150,000 for dust control.
• $385,000 for gravel resurfacing.
• $175,000 for snow removal.
• $500,000 for maintenance overhead (including wages and benefits).
• $150,000 in municipal drain work.
• $250,000 for construction related to the first phase of the Industrial Land Strategy
• $220,000 for Bluevale storm drainage engineering
• $150,000 for work on Brandon Road from Clyde Line to Belgrave Street.
• $225,000 for work on B Line Road from Gilmour Line to Harriston Road.
• $446,000 for bridge work throughout the municipality.
• $150,000 for a backhoe replacement.
• $275,000 for a tandem snow plow replacement
• $100,000 for a cold storage addition at the Morris municipal building.
The landfill budget also inspired discussion within council as the need to replace the scale house was brought to council’s attention.
Upon reviewing the budget, Councillor John Smuck said that each budget was coming in between eight and 10 per cent higher than the 2017 actual costs, which he didn’t feel was necessary. Alcock pointed out that was due to some new expenses, including the scale house.
He said the structure, which was purchased used 15 years ago, was in need of replacement and was proposing to put $10,000 in reserves to prepare for that.
Smuck also asked what impact wheelie bin collection had on the landfill. Administrator Clerk-Treasurer Nancy Michie reported that, over the past several years, collection had increased from 1,200 tonnes to 1,500 tonnes annually, which would have implications on the life cycle of the landfill.