Town Treasurer Jim Brown announced to Council at this week’s budget meeting the plan to consolidate utilities into one bill. Brown said that the Town was forced into finding a different option because the company that read meters informed the Town they would not be reading meters any longer. The best alternative as far as costs were concerned was to hire Festival Hydro to read the meters and include both hydro and water usage into one bill, Brown said. This would mean that instead of receiving a water bill every two months issued by the Town, St.Marys residents would receive a monthly bill which would be issued by Festival Hydro. At present the hydro bill is monthly and the water bill is issued every two months. The new system could kick-in in April.
Although the budget process in continuing, the Town seems to be looking at a modest tax increase this year. Before the budget in finalized, a public meeting will be held.
To explain the process thus far, Town CAO Brent Kittmer, had this explanation on the numbers that Council are working with.
“The draft budget reflects a total gross expenditure of $24.6 million requiring an increase in the tax levy of $218,500 or 2%. This was accomplished by reducing net operating requirements by $35,000 allowing for a net contribution to reserves from operations of $253,000. From the self funded services of Water, Wastewater and Landfill a further increase in the reserve transfers of $27,000 brings the total capital reserve contribution for 2016 to $2.6 million which assists in moving the Town towards long term financial sustainability of its infrastructure assets.
Total increase in Tax Levy:
The total requirement from taxation for 2016 is $11.2 million, compared to $11.0 million in 2015. As 2016 is the fourth and final year of a four-year reassessment cycle, property values were last assessed using January 1, 2012, market values and those properties that increased in value have seen that increase phased-in over four years. In 2016, the final phase-in adjustment for those properties will increase by 25% to the full value of their total assessment. Preliminary analysis regarding tax shifts, assessment reductions from appeals and assessment growth from new construction indicates that net assessment growth in 2015 would generate approximately $90,000 of additional tax revenue in 2016. This would account for slightly more than 40% of the tax levy increase. Based on the growth related and phased-in assessment recorded to date, the draft 2016 levy will cost the average single residential dwelling $2,918 in property tax in 2016 compared to $2,886 in 2015 an increase of 1%, or $32 per household per year. This is the best estimate of the impact at this time. Prior to the end of the year Ontario Property Tax Analysis (OPTA) will have uploaded the assessment information and the final analysis will be completed.”