North Huron residents are looking at a 2.92 per cent budget increase for 2012.
The draft operating and capital budget was presented prior to the March 19 council meeting and was approved in principle. Final approval will be given once the county and education rates are set, which should be within the month.
Donna White, director of finance, outlined this year’s budget for council and members of the public in the gallery. She stated this year will see little new capital work, focusing on the completion of projects. Highlights include the second phase of the Josephine St. reconstruction, a new roof for the Blyth arena (a $50,000 Trillium grant was announced Tuesday morning that will go toward the community hall roof), and renovations to improve accessibility at the police station in Wingham.
North Huron is continuing its policy of putting money into reserves for the purchase of equipment like fire trucks and ice machines at arenas, to avoid sudden major expenses.
The 2.92 per cent budget increase translates to a tax rate increase (based on the 2.92 per cent spending increase, and increases in property assessments) of 1.09 per cent for Wingham, 1.03 for Blyth and 1.69 for East Wawanosh. Based on an average assessment for a residential property of $120,305, this means an increase on the tax bill of $28.03 for a Wingham resident, $21.64 for a Blyth resident and $33.28 for an East Wawanosh resident. Larger increases are tied to more highly assessed properties, said White.
“This budget keeps the overall tax increase in line with inflation and focuses on maintaining core services during these challenging economic times,” said Reeve Neil Vincent. “To position North Huron for future growth and development, council is committed to reducing costs while maintaining services, investing in municipal infrastructure and keeping future tax increases reasonable so that we’re competitive with neighbouring communities.”
White noted at the end of her presentation that North Huron has many advantages. Residents enjoy the benefits of living in a small town, but have easy access to an abundance of services and facilities that go well beyond what one would expect.
Ensuring those facilities are in good shape is important, said White. “We need to prioritize on maintenance,” she said.
A key priority for staff is increasing the emphasis on economic development – not just on new business, but retaining what we have, and supporting main street businesses.
North Huron council and senior staff have embarked on a program and expenditure review, explained CAO Gary Long. This review has three objectives: identify savings and efficiencies, revenue generation opportunities, and service delivery changes/enhancements. To date, this initiative has resulted in over $120,000 in net savings. This has been accomplished by reducing full and part-time positions and hours, changing telecommunication contracts, energy management and lower insurance premiums.
“Our budget process and the program and expenditure review don’t stop with the passing of the budget,” said White. “This is a continuous process, driven by council and staff, to ensure residents receive value for their tax dollars and that we’re delivering quality programs and services in a cost effective manner.”…please read more in this weeks Wingham Advance Times