Au­gusta star­ing at 4.58% tax in­crease

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - FRONT PAGE - WAYNE LOWRIE

Au­gusta town­ship tax­pay­ers face a 4.58-per-cent in­crease in their prop­erty tax bills next year un­der bud­get es­ti­mates pre­sented to coun­cil on Mon­day.

Ray Mor­ri­son, trea­surer and chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer, stressed the es­ti­mates are pre­lim­i­nary and “a worst-case sce­nario,” adding that new as­sess­ment be­cause of growth in the town­ship should re­duce the pro­jected tax hike. As well, he ex­pects the fi­nal year-end num­bers would help the town­ship’s bot­tom line.

The pre­lim­i­nary fig­ures show that the town­ship would need seven per cent more from the tax levy in 2018, but Mor­ri­son sug­gests mov­ing money from re­serve ac­counts to smooth out the in­crease to the 4.58 per cent.

Mayor Doug Malanka said the town­ship faces tough eco­nomic chal­lenges and that his coun­cil will have its work cut out to re­duce the pro­jected in­crease to the goal of around two per cent.

The town­ship faces sev­eral pres­sures to in­crease its spend­ing in 2018, chief among them from the fire depart­ment.

The town­ship hired Rob Bow­man as its first full-time fire chief in the mid­dle of last year and the im­pact of his salary for a full year will be in next year’s bud­get.

As well, the town­ship is bud­get­ing for two new fire halls at a cost of $5 mil­lion, which would be paid off over 25 years. The cost of re­pay­ing that loan would add about $200,000 a year to the town’s bud­get, Mor­ri­son es­ti­mated.

Mor­ri­son said the $5-mil­lion es­ti­mate is on the high side, but it is in­cluded as a place­holder in the bud­get un­til coun­cil de­cides what to do with the fire hall rec­om­men­da­tions.

The town­ship’s fire mas­ter plan rec­om­mended that it re­place its ag­ing Sta­tion One in Mait­land at an es­ti­mated cost of $2.8 mil­lion and build a new satel­lite sta­tion in May­nard at a cost of $1.26 mil­lion.

But con­sul­tants have since said the new fire halls would have to be

much larger than rec­om­mended in the mas­ter plan, which will in­evitably in­crease the price.

Coun­cil­lor Adrian Wy­nands in­di­cated he would have some hard ques­tions about the fire depart­ment plans when it comes the time for coun­cil to do the line-by-line dis­cus­sion of the fire bud­get.

Wy­nands ques­tioned the need for the new satel­lite sta­tion and said he was con­cerned at the pro­posed size of the one in Mait­land.

The fire depart­ment said the new sta­tions are de­signed to serve the town­ship for the next 20 to 50 years, Wy­nands noted, yet fu­tur­ists are pre­dict­ing that fire ser­vices will need less, not more space.

He said that in 20 years mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties might have smaller, driver­less fire trucks. Some ex­perts also pre­dict that fire ve­hi­cles would be

able to hover, elim­i­nat­ing the need for lad­der trucks, he said.

“We seem to be look­ing back­ward, not to the fu­ture,” he said.

Coun­cil­lor Sa­man­tha Schapel­houman also ques­tioned the as­sump­tions in the fire mas­ter plan, which she said are based on the as­sump­tion of big fu­ture growth while the sta­tis­tics sug­gest dif­fer­ently.

An­other hit to next year’s bud­get, al­beit smaller than the fire depart­ment’s needs, is the $29,700 that Au­gusta will pay to be part of the St. Lawrence Cor­ri­dor Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Com­mis­sion.

Malanka said the money is a good in­vest­ment for Au­gusta. He said the town­ship’s in­dus­trial sec­tor once ac­counted for 33 to 35 per cent of its taxes, but now it is only about five per cent.

We seem to be look­ing back­ward, not to the fu­ture.”

Adrian Wy­nands

If the com­mis­sion fo­cuses on the bio­chem­i­cal in­dus­try to re­place the de­clin­ing tra­di­tional chem­i­cal sec­tor, Au­gusta would ben­e­fit far more than the $30,000 a year it costs to be part of the com­mis­sion, he said.

Aside from bring­ing in “new taxes and new hope,” eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment means new jobs for young peo­ple who won’t have to move away from Au­gusta to find work, he said.

WAYNE LOWRIE/THE RECORDER AND TIMES

CAO Ray Mor­ri­son says the tax hike will be less than pro­jected.

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