Hawkesbury town council has approved the 2023 municipal budget and it means the town will collect 3.95 per cent more in property taxes this year from residential property owners.

The budget was approved at the February 13 council meeting. The 3.95 per cent levy increase means residential property owners will pay a total of $11,954,000 in 2023. According to Treasurer Philippe Timbers, the increase means an average property tax increase of $74 for residential ratepayers. The total municipal tax levy for 2023, which includes commercial and industrial property tax revenue, is $12,389,650. The total operations budget for 2023 is projected at $24,240,091.

Town council held two days of budget meetings on January 18 and 19 and directed staff to keep any increase in the amount of taxes collected within that range. On February 13, Timbers presented three options to council. One was the 3.95 per cent levy increase which was adopted, a levy increase of 3.5 per cent, or a levy increase of 2.95 per cent. Budget preparations had initially begun with a projected levy increase of 5.12 per cent.

Timbers recommended council adopt the 3.95 per cent increase, because it will reduce the potential for any budget surplus to be spent this year.

“We would have been starting 2024 with a hole in our budget,” Timbers said.

In reaching the 3.95 per cent increase, a series of adjustments were made. Fire department revenue was increased by $25,000 due to anticipated cost recovery from mutual aid services. An estimated $100,000 organizational review of the town’s department structure will go ahead in 2023, but has been left unfunded in the budget. Timbers’ report cautioned the cost of the review and any results from it could lead to a deficit of $200,000 in 2024.

Other adjustments totaling $9,101 were also made in the budget to arrive at the 3.95 per cent levy increase.  

Council reaches consensus

Councillors shared their preferences when the time arrived for them to select one of the three options which had been presented to them.

“I don’t like any of the options personally,” commented Councillor Yves Paquette.

Following the meeting, he said his preference is to keep taxes as low as possible without neglecting services, and acknowledged the challenges of the current economy.

“Inflation is there, and we have to live with it,” Paquette said.

“I prefer the 3.5 (per cent),” said Councillor Jean Charlebois, during the council meeting.

Councillor Antonios Tsourounakis said he liked the 2.95 per cent option but did not think it would bring sufficient revenue. He preferred the 3.5 per cent increase option.  

“It’s a nice compromise all around,” Tsourounakis said.

Councillor André Chamaillard said he preferred the option for a 3.95 per cent levy increase.

Council ended up agreeing on the 3.95 per cent increase. Following that conclusion, the bylaw to approve the 2023 Hawkesbury municipal budget was adopted by council.  

Capital plans

The 2023 Hawkesbury budget also includes $13,178,773 in capital project spending. The three most expensive projects are continued upgrades to the water filtration plant at $6,500,000, a new refrigeration system for the arena at the Robert Hartley Sports Complex, which is projected to cost $2,500,000, and $700,000 allocated for the new municipal garage. The estimated total cost of the new garage is $7,245,000. However, further grants and loans for the garage project are available from Infrastructure Ontario and the Canadian Federation of Municipalities.

Two road projects are included in the 2023 Hawkesbury budget. A $450,000 road, water, wastewater, and storm sewer rehabilitation project on West Street. Grant funding of $350,000 will pay for most of the project. Culvert rehabilitation on Prospect Street is also planned at a cost of $100,000.