The Town of Hawkesbury is gradually compiling its 2021 municipal budget. At council meetings on December 16 and 17, 2020, Treasurer Philippe Timbers presented the preliminary 2021 operating and capital estimates. The purpose of the sessions was to inform councillors of the general financial situation of the town and its budgetary needs for the year, and not to debate what should—or should not be included in the budget.
In its present form, the budget projected $22,397,214 in expenses and revenues for 2021. The town would levy $11,469,414 in taxes this year, which is $597,064 or 5.5 per cent more than the $10,897,789 collected in 2020. The levy increase in 2020 was 1.2 per cent. The last time the yearly levy increase exceeded five per cent was in 2014 when it was 5.4 per cent.
Timbers said that some of the levy increase in 2021 will come from a $285,000 or 0.03 per cent growth in the total assessment value of all properties in the town from 2020.
Grants from other levels of government are projected to make up $2,731,640 of revenue to the Town of Hawkesbury in 2021.
Timbers explained several factors behind increased costs in 2021. Insurance is projected to cost $100,000 more for the town, and salaries are projected to cost an additional $145,000. The town will receive $115,000 less in revenue because it no longer rents space to the Ontario Provincial Police, and $90,000 less in revenue is also anticipated due to the closure of the pool at the Robert Hartley Sports Complex because of COVID-19.
Under the plan presented on December 16 and 17, the 2021 residential tax rate would be 0.011 per cent, an increase from 0.010 per cent in 2020. The average residential property value in Hawkesbury is $162,370. With the tax rate and levy increases being proposed for 2021, there would be an increase of $85.47 in property taxes for a property of the average value.
Several significant capital projects were presented for the 2021 budget. Among those already approved and being carried over from 2020 include $1,420,503 in water treatment plant upgrades that will be funded through a combination of provincial and federal grants, user fees, reserve funds, and a contribution from Champlain Township because the Hawkesbury Water Treatment Plant also supplies Vankleek Hill. The $1,050,000 project to reconstruct the retaining wall on McGill Street beside Hawkesbury Creek has been carried over from 2020, and so has $500,000 for street paving. Gas tax refund grants cover 95 per cent of the road paving costs. Traffic signal changes are also planned for McGill Street. That $330,000 project will be funded by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and gas tax funds due to it being the route of Highway 34.
No definite sources of financing are available yet for the estimated $100,000 cost to repair erosion on Chenail Island or for $180,000 to construct a two-way cycling path on the island.
Councillor Yves Paquette cautioned that some projects may have to be delayed due to the uncertainty of the economy due to COVID-19. He noted that taxpayers should not be regarded as a bank for the town.
Councillor Antonios Tsourounakis echoed Paquette’s words and said that before the pandemic, he wanted to challenge each municipal department to find five per cent in savings. Tsourounakis said that he hopes to resume his effort in 2022.
Council will meet again in late January to discuss the budget and recommend any changes.