Montrose council is doing its best to keep a rise in property taxes as low as possible by picking budget priorities for the 2015 spending plan.
Bryan Teasdale, village chief administrative officer (CAO), provided council members with a draft summary of spending at the most recent council meeting on Monday night, giving them a chance to make some decisions about what needs to stay in the budget and what can go.
“(The draft budget) was based on what we have already done, what the councillors want to do, things I know we need to do and some capital projects,” he said, adding that the draft made the assumption that Montrose property taxes would go up by three per cent.
“(After the budget summary was read) the only direction given to staff was to take a look and try and reduce that proposed three per cent increase as much as possible. I am trying to get that number down to around two and a half per cent.”
Within the draft budget, there were some significant changes from last year, some numbers going way, way up, and others going down.
Capital projects spending got a big bump to the tune of nearly $200,000, or 250 per cent, but Teasdale says most of that money is going to be coming from water system reserve funds.
“We are looking at $175,000 just on reservoir roof structural improvements,” he said. “(That $175,000) is funded through general taxation, user fees and $120,000 of that from the current water system reserve funds. That is the big change from last year.”
The rest of the roof improvement budget will come from village user fees, which have already been collected for 2015, and general taxation.
Rounding out the capital spending draft are new valves, fire hydrant replacement, general water system upgrades and sanitary sewer system improvements.
Upgrades to Montrose Community Hall, including new flooring and sound system, will cost the village about $30,000, but the money is coming from the Beaver Valley Recreation Fund.
The current draft isn’t set in stone, and Teasdale was careful to point out in his summary that there are still opportunities for the village to apply for grants to subsidize some of the projects, like a wastewater treatment plant communications upgrade, which could cost the village around $30,000.
“We are looking at just some general capital spending for the wastewater treatment plant,” he said. “If we don’t get a grant for the bigger picture that we are working on right now, then we can focus on the one-off stuff, and this gives us a little bit of money to take care of that.”
While most areas of Montrose’s budget draft have seen a spending increase, the environmental health services section reflects a decrease in spending by 39 per cent, or $180,000.
Teasdale says that doesn’t mean that environmental health is being left behind.
“You have to look at the overall picture of the budget, not just the line items,” he said, adding that the shift is because of transferring proposed water storage projects to the capital projects fund. “One section can go up $100,000, but then another section will go down $100,000 and it looks like a big deal, but it’s just money getting transferred around and how we account for things.”
After going through the draft budget, the next step for Teasdale and members of council is to pass a bylaw outlining any kind of property tax increase based on 2015 spending. He says that will be taken care of at the next council meeting.
“We have to get a tax bylaw done just so we can get out a public notification and things like that,” he said. “I know that they are close to that and it should be around a two and a half per cent or so increase. Next, they would move to approve the draft budget so we can get the tax stuff going.”
The next Montrose regular council meeting is April 7 at 7 p.m.