Council update

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Township of North Dundas Council met for a regularly scheduled Council meeting on February 1. The meeting opened with a brief presentation of a proposed vacation policy change for Township staff. The change – which recommends that staff plan their vacation for the year before April each year, when possible – was quickly passed. 

Next, a water units allocation request from the Lactalis factory on Gordon Street in Winchester was considered. Council members were in agreement that while the water units request was acceptable, it should be Lactalis paying for it since they are a successful business (Lactalis had requested relief from the $14,000 cost). The Lactalis plant is the largest cheese factory in Canada. 

Fire Chief Kreg Raistrick asked for a formal approval of a previously discussed policy of paying firefighters for a minimum of 2 hours for the first emergency call of a given calendar day. This policy was proposed to help ensure enough firefighters respond to each call. The policy was approved. 

After the discussion of a Delegated Authority Bylaw which assigns responsibility of certain duties to help add clarity to existing policies, Council heard an overview of this year’s draft municipal budget from the Township’s treasurer, John Gareau. 

There are increases from last year in many parts of the draft budget, due in large part to the increased cost of many goods and services because of high inflation. An error last year incorrectly identified some farm properties as residential properties, the latter of which have higher tax rates. This impacted financial numbers from last year, as well as causing an unintentional exaggeration of the amount of residential growth for budgeting purposes locally. The growth in this year’s draft budget therefore shows as a negative number, but only because of the correction of last year’s error. In reality, growth for this year is 1.15%. 

Property taxes are proposed to increase by 14.7% this year, or an additional $12.29 per month per $1,000 of last year’s annual tax bill. John pointed out that there are potential financial difficulties for the Township in the years ahead due to the costs associated with servicing debt. 

Department representatives then took turns presenting draft budget highlights for their own departments. The “general government” proposed expenses from the office of the CAO include $160,000 for office upgrades, $25,000 for maintenance at Brown’s Cemetery, and $50,000 per year for Dundas Manor until 2029, among others. Donations from Council to local organizations are also included in “general government”, and Mayor Tony Fraser suggested discussing increases to these donations to account for inflation. This matter was left for discussion on another day. Council must also consider a request from Dundas Manor to have their municipal taxes written off at a cost to the Township of $25,000 per year, which would cost the Township $75,000 initially due to backdating. 

Next, Chief Raistrick gave an update on the fire budget for the year, which has some increases in terms of investing in new firefighters and training. Director Calvin Pol then gave a breakdown of the expenses in the Development Services department. 

Director Jamie Cheney provided the update for the Public Works department, which is the department with the largest budget. He explained that the Township owes some money for previous bridge replacements, including the Cayer Road bridge. There are about 10 culvert replacement projects that need to be budgeted for in the near future. There is well over $1 million for road maintenance and repairs in the draft budget for this year. 

Deputy Mayor Theresa Bergeron had some questions for Director Cheney. For example, she questioned whether a proposed speed limit reduction to 40km/h for residential settlements in the Township is necessary for this year, due to the $35,000 cost for the signs. The Deputy Mayor made it clear that she wants the change made, but questions the timing. Director Cheney explained that an agreement with the Counties may lower the cost of the signage. 

Director Meaghan Meerburg of the Recreation and Culture department was up next. The draft 2024 budget includes money set aside for municipal building repairs and upgrades, as well as playground equipment for 3 playparks in the Township. Director Meerburg also pointed out that there are upgrades to the Winchester and Chesterville pools that must be completed before the season opens. 

Finally, Director Danielle Ward of the Environmental Services department gave her presentation. Budget items for her department included changes due to the shifting of recycling responsibility to the producers of packaging, and expenses related to the expansion of the Boyne Road Landfill. The water and sewer portion of this budget was not included in the February 1 presentation. 

More in-depth budget considerations will be made during the February 29 Council meeting. 

1 COMMENT

  1. A tax increase of 14%+ seems a bit extreme. Personally this will result in about $500 increase annually, at a time when everything else is also increasing.
    – Will residents get any say in this before it is approved?
    – How does this percentage compare to increases in other rural municipalities in Eastern Ontario?
    – Are new costs of water and sewer upgrades getting passed along onto residents with private wells and septic systems?
    – What steps have been taken to find efficiencies in advance of raising taxes?

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