The 2020 municipal budget is now official in Champlain Township. Council approved it at its regular meeting on January 16. Despite collecting more tax dollars, the approved municipal residential tax rate increase remains at 4.7 per cent.

Property taxes, collected by the municipality, consist of municipal, county and education taxes.

While the municipal residential tax rate increases by 4.7 per cent, the counties residential tax rate increases by three per cent and the school tax rate decreases by 2.69 per cent.

As an example of the impact of the increase, a $200,000 residential property was taxed at $2,323.30 in 2019 (municipal, county and school taxes). In 2020, the property taxes for that same property will be $2,394.86, which is an additional $71.56, or a global 3.08 per cent, thanks in part to the reduced school taxes.

The 2020 municipal budget includes $14,330,792 in operating costs.

The township will collect $6,602,450 in taxes in 2020, which is 6.03 per cent or $375,340 more than the 2019 amount of $6,227,110. According to Treasurer Kevin Tessier, $79,000 of the increased tax revenue is due to the growth in Champlain Township from new development being taxed in 2020 which was not included in the 2019 assessment.

Only $324,000 of the more than $7 million capital budget is funded from municipal taxes.  The capital budget is mostly funded through reserves or grants from the provincial and federal governments, and the annual road and bridge allocation from the united counties.  The rest of the tax revenue goes towards the operations budget, which includes things like administration, staff salaries, fire department operations, policing (which represent $1,437,877 of the net budget), and the maintenance of roads, drains, and recreation facilities.

Some of the significant spending increases in township departments include building and planning, where the operating budget is increasing by 98 per cent (Or the operating expenses increasing by 59%), largely due to higher salary and employee benefit costs.  The township now has a Senior Planner on staff who works in the Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Department. The real increase is due to an economic growth forecast in the amount of $20,000, and the reclassification of a portion of the salary into the Economic Development sub-department.  There is also a contribution to the reserve in the amount of $15,000.

The township seems poised to spend more time patching roads and cleaning out ditches in the year ahead.  The road patching budget has increased by 46 per cent, and the ditching budget is 75 per cent higher.  However, the operations budget for the actual roads department budget, which is separate from patching and ditches, is also increasing by 40 per cent, but largely due to salaries and other administrative costs. For roads, the one per cent contribution to reserve, which was requested by the council at the first budget meeting, has increased the net road budget by $62,700.

The net budget for emergency situations is increasing by 47 per cent.  The main reason for this is because this year, the township has $4,000 in the budget for a special project regarding the 2019 flood along the Ottawa River, and $4,500 for the pre-installation of an amateur radio kit for emergency communication.

The general administration net-budget is 44 per cent more in 2020 than in 2019.  The reasons for that include higher fees for computer maintenance, outside professional services, and facility maintenance. Furthermore, there is $52,000 contribution to the reserve to recover a portion of the 2019 flood costs that were not budgeted.

Capital projects

Champlain Township has several capital projects planned for 2020.  They include paving and surface improvements on streets in Royal Alexander Estates, John Street and St-Anne Road in L’Orignal, Bangs Road, and Greenlane Road.  The road projects are being funded through grants from the provincial and federal governments.  Various minor upgrades to the water and wastewater systems in Vankleek Hill and L’Orignal.  Those projects are being funded from water and wastewater capital reserves.

Councillor votes no

Councillor Violaine Titley was the only member of council to vote against the budget.  In a telephone interview on January 19, she said that she could not support “a second huge increase of taxes in a row.”