East Hawkesbury Township will collect 3.5 per cent more in property taxes this year than it did in 2022.

The 2023 municipal budget was approved by council on January 9. In 2022, East Hawkesbury’s property tax levy was $2,392,613. In 2023, it will be $2,481,333, which is $83,910 more than 2022.

During 2022, East Hawkesbury’s property tax base also grew by 0.2 per cent, which contributed an additional $4,810 in tax revenue. The total value of East Hawkesbury’s 2023 operating budget is $5,144,025.

The average current value assessment (CVA) of a residential property in East Hawkesbury is $209,874. The 2023 residential tax rate for the township is 0.0049 per cent, which means the owner of a residential property at the average CVA will pay $1,030.85 in municipal taxes in 2023.

The budget report prepared by Chief Administrative Officer-Treasurer Luc Lalonde identifies that the township is also behind in investing in the maintenance of its assets such as infrastructure, facilities, and equipment and should consider making larger contributions to those investments so future tax increases may be minimized.

“It’s not a good time to raise taxes, that’s for sure,” acknowledged Mayor Robert Kirby.

He blamed higher fuel costs for driving up the cost of everything else and suggested the government should temporarily lower the cost of fuel, or further reduce the taxes on it to help lower the prices of other goods and services.

“Lower the cost of fuel and everything should follow suit,” Kirby said.

Pay raise for council

As examples of meeting the challenges of increasing expenses, East Hawkesbury council has approved increases in the salaries of municipal employees and in the remuneration for council.

The increase in remuneration for council was approved on December 12, 2022. Effective January 1, 2023, the mayor’s annual base remuneration increased to $19,781, with a provision for an increase of three per cent in 2024 and increases of two per cent in 2025 and 2026.

The most recent council remuneration statistics for East Hawkesbury are from 2021. That year, the mayor’s base remuneration was $19,190.54.

Effective January 1, the remuneration for the deputy mayor and councillors is $15,000 per year, with provision for a three per cent increase in 2024 and increases of two per cent in 2025 and 2026.

The mayor and council are also eligible to receive additional payments of $160 for attending special meetings of council or for attending meetings of boards, commissions, committees, or other outside agencies that do not pay them separate remuneration.

For travel expenses, the mayor will receive $120 per month, and councillors will receive $60 per month. The mayor is also allocated an expense account of $1,500 per year to cover incidental expenses based on invoices submitted for those expenses. The mayor and members of council will also receive a daily payment of $160 and an additional $100 per day for food expenses when attending conventions and conferences.

According to the budget document, $119,473 has been allocated for council remuneration in 2023, which is $6,488 or more than in 2022. In 2022, $103,120 had been set aside but only $96,632 was spent on council remuneration that year.

Kirby said he believes the increase in remuneration for council is appropriate.

“It’s not fair for them to use their personal money to keep going,” the mayor commented.

Even with the recently approved increases, East Hawkesbury still has the lowest level of council remuneration among the eight municipalities of the United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR).

New employee salaries

On January 9, East Hawkesbury council set new salaries for municipal employees. The Review inquired if a report was available stating the level of an increase the new salaries represented, but was informed such a document was unavailable. As is the case with the increases in council remuneration, East Hawkesbury continues to have the lowest staff salaries among UCPR municipalities.

According to the 2023 budget documents, East Hawkesbury had budgeted $1,073,399 for salaries in all departments and areas of service, excluding benefits, in 2022. The actual amount spent by the township on salaries in 2022 was $1,078,066, excluding benefits. In the 2023 budget, $1,107,968 has been allocated for township employee salaries, excluding benefits.

The additional $34,569 allocated for salaries in 2023 represents a 3.2 per cent increase in the total township salaries from the amount allocated in 2022. However, because the township spent $4,667 more on salaries in 2022 than had been budgeted, the additional amount allocated for 2023 above the amount allocated for 2022 is $29,902. This represents an increase of 2.7 per cent.

All of the new municipal salaries in East Hawkesbury will include increases of three per cent in 2024 and two per cent each in 2025 and 2026.