Woolwich Township has approved a 2 per cent tax increase for 2013.
The approval of the draft budget came at the end of several special budget meetings, held over the last three Thursdays during the month of January.
The 2 per cent increase includes a 1.5 per cent increase for general operating and capital budgets, with a further 0.5 per cent set aside as special infrastructure funding.
The budget was approved with support from all members of council, with the exception of councillor Mark Bauman, who tried once again to convince his colleagues to set aside more for infrastructure funding.
"I'm supportive of the 1.5 per cent," said Bauman. "I'm not supportive of 0.5 per cent (for infrastructure). It's almost an insult to our roads to say that this is all we're going to do for infrastructure."
Bauman, who has long been an advocate of the need to spend more on the township's infrastructure deficit, cautioned councillors that they needed to act on this issue before it becomes impossible to keep up with the infrastructure needs.
The 0.5 per cent tax increase for infrastructure will generate approximately $35,000 in additional revenue for the township. The township is facing a $63 million infrastructure deficit, just considering its roads and bridges alone.
Bauman suggested an overall 2.8 per cent tax increase — 1.3 per cent for infrastructure, and 1.5 for the regular operating and capital budget.
Bauman's fellow councillors, however, were not convinced, and voted in support of the budget.
Mayor Todd Cowan said that while he agreed with Bauman on the importance of dealing with the infrastructure deficit, he noted that the township is currently "entertaining other ways of finding money for that," in an apparent reference to the township's interest in pursuing a casino for the municipality.
The 2 per cent increase will result in an average residential impact of $12.68, based on a home assessed at $269,000. The township has the second-lowest tax rate in Waterloo Region.
Some of the highlights of this year's budget include:
• the township will be spending more time and money on inspecting its roads, both in summer and winter, to meet the provincially mandated maintenance standards;
• councillors approved increasing the Ontario Municipal Board budget for 2013 to $110,000, to bring it up to $220,000. Last year's OMB expenses totalled $300,000. The money will be offset by the township's operating contingency reserve, as well as higher-than-expected revenues from the recreation department;
• the township will be conducting a bridge study in 2013, with an estimated cost of $52,500;
• the township will be increasing its spending on loose top (gravel) roads, replacing gravel on these roads once every seven years, instead of the current 10-year cycle. The township's road needs study from 2009 recommended a three-year cycle;
• The township enjoyed a good year in regards to winter control, spending $482,000 of its $638,000 budget.
• As previously reported, the township is considering moving towards paperless agendas for councillors, for a potential annual savings of $11,171, after an initial cost of $6,000 for laptops for each councillor. Mayor Todd Cowan will use his regional laptop for the paperless agendas.
• The township is planning several capital infrastructure projects for 2013, including engineering work on Church Street East and Mill Street in Elmira, King Street North in St. Jacobs, Kressler Road in Heidelberg, and Woolwich Street South in Breslau; hot-mix resurfacing for Hampton Street in Elmira, the Glasgow Street intersection in Conestogo and Three Bridges Road in St. Jacobs; upgrades to Snider Park Sports Field Lighting; improvements to Conestogo Park, and a new emergency siren in Elmira and improvements to the siren in St. Jacobs.