Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Cramahe staff faces tough test

Department heads in Cramahe Township will need sharp pencils in the next three weeks.

Township Council took its first long look at the 2010 budget on February 9. If it were passed as it was presented, Cramahe taxpayers would be facing a 17% increase in the township portion of the tax levy. For a homeowner with a property valued by MPAC at $100,000 it would mean an increase of $140 and a total tax bill of close to $1,700 per year. Half of the total collected stays in the township. The totals do not include any increase in water or sewage treatment rates which are currently under study.

The projected increase was unacceptable to council and the heads have been sent back to find about $800,000 in cuts from a $4,957,405 budget. Last year the township budget was $3,906,787.

Council began the process on Tuesday with cuts to a several reserves of about $15,000, but it was clear from the tone of the meeting that this was only the beginning.

Residential taxpayers pay about 80% of the municipal tax. Farms and commercial establishments pay most of the rest.

The wish list presented to council would wipe out the work done by the township to bring its taxes more in line with other rural municipalities in Northumberland County. In 2009 is sat fourth out of eight in terms of taxes paid out by its residents on a $100,000 home. It was second highest among the rural municipalities, with only Trent Hillshigher. Residents in Port Hope’s Ward 1 paid the highest tax bills in 2009, almost 25% more than Cramahe residents. Port Hope’s Ward 2 had the lowest tax rate.

Cramahe’s tax rates have gone down 6.42% since 2002. Last year the rates dropped by over 7%. The county rates have risen by 14% in eight years. Councillor Ed Van Egmond advised council that taxpayers don't care what the mill rate is - they want to know how their taxes will change.

Cramahe Mayor Marc Coombs suggested that council would like to see a budget total of $4.1 million presented by staff when council next sits down to review the figures on March 2.

Some heads have already seen the writing on the wall. Community Services Director, Dan O’Brien proposed that council cut his new proposals in order to bring his totals close to last year’s.

It is uncertain what will happen in the Works Department where Director Barry Thrasher is leaving on February 19 to take a Deputy Director’s position with the Town of Cobourg.

Once the township has brought its department budgets into line, it will see what it has left to grant to 15 agencies and groups who have made requests for funding.

Already a couple have been discarded. The county physician recruitment request for $17,000 is gone. Deputy Mayor Jim Williams agreed with a suggestion made by Mayor Coombs that a decision on a request for $30,000 by ENSS for a track and field renewal is premature.

Councillor Tim Gilligan launched a debate on the merits of using public funds to support private businesses. He pointed to the township support of the Auction Barn Jamboree. The township has paid for signs located at municipal boundaries to promote the annual country music jamboree.

Councillor Pat Westrope countered that there is a spin-off when 2,000 people visit the community. They purchase goods and services during their stay.

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