Though taxes will increase this year in the Township of Champlain, it still has one of the lowest tax rates in Prescott-Russell. (Photo: Francis Tessier-Burns)

Breaking down the Township of Champlain’s 2017 budget

The Township of Champlain’s council meeting had a presentation everyone was waiting for “with bated breath,” joked Mayor Barton. He’s talking, of course, about the township’s 2017 budget. 

Here’s what you need to know:

Total budget

The township’s total budget is $22.8 million—about $9 million more than last year. The majority—$8.8 million—can be attributed to upgrades to Vankleek Hill’s wastewater treatment plant. The federal and provincial governments will give grants totaling a combined $5.9 million for the project, while the township is taking a $2.9 million loan. The loan will be paid back through user fees. 

Tax Levy

The total taxes collected by the township is increasing 9.1 per cent to $5.3 million. Last year, the total collected was $4.8 million. The increase comes from the township bumping the tax rate up by 6.6 per cent, as well as benefiting from higher property values. Last year the total values in the township were about $915 million, this year they are $955 million.

So what do all these numbers mean? Whereas last year you’d be paying about $183.33 per month in municipal taxes on your $200,000 home, this year you’ll be paying $189 per month.

Councillor Séguin questioned why taxes are increasing again.

“Mr. Séguin, I know where you’re coming from, but we’ve got to keep moving ahead,” said Mayor Barton. “We can’t keep stagnant.”

Water and Sewer

While the upgrades to the wastewater plant fall under the capital portion of the budget, council said the current water and sewer rates do not cover the operating costs for both accounts.

The total water and sewer operating costs are about $2.18 million for the year, but the user fees only cover $2.13 million of these costs. In this case, council had to dip into its water and sewer reserves for about $65,000 to balance the budget.

How long are we going to take out of the water reserves to keep the rates down?” asked Councillor Helen MacLeod at the meeting.

Currently the township is in the second year of a three-year program to increase the fees on water and sewage by three per cent and seven per cent respectively each year.

“It should be getting better,” says Paula Knudsen, the township’s CAO and treasurer. “At the end of the day, if we come in lower than our expenditures, then we won’t take from the reserves.”

Other Projects

Upgrading the wastewater treatment plant is by far the biggest project the township is undertaking this year.

Also included in the budget is repaving portions of Ritchance Road, Derby Street and John Street totaling $510,000. The work on Ritchance Road will cost about $250,000, which will be paid for with funding received by the township in the form of gas tax rebates.

The township has also ordered a new fire truck for L’Orignal, worth $326,513, which will be financed by obtaining a $108,000 loan and using $218,500 from the L’Orignal fire department reserves, leaving $25,000 in those reserves.

Using money from the reserves was a point of contention at Tuesday’s meeting.

“We’re not putting anything in fire this year,” said councillor MacLeod. “We’re really going to have to start next year to bring it back up.” The reserve totals will be about $200,000 less than they were at the end of last year.

“Our reserves are low,” said Knudsen.

Colacem

Mayor Barton highlighted the fact there’s no money budgeted in case Colacem decides to appeal the decision taken by council to reject the application for a zoning change.

Knudsen says if there is an appeal in 2017, the township will incur legal expenses even if the hearings aren’t until next year.

“We’d have to sit down with a lawyer and ask how much they think it would be,” she says. If it’s a substantial amount to defend council’s decision, she says, then it would have to decide on how to finance the defense. This could mean a loan or going into the reserves, or a combination of both.

“My hope is that most of any expenditures we will have to make in that regard will be in 2018,” said Barton.

Below you can see the whole budget presentation that was presented at the council meeting.

Champlain Township 2017 Budget Presentation by TheReview on Scribd