Mayor: New tax increase stays below inflation rate
A home owner with a house worth $150,000 will see their property taxes go up about $45 this year after Windsor city council approved the 2017 budget at Monday night’s marathon council meeting.
The meeting which lasted more than 11 hours had periods of agreement among the councillors as budget line items such as park bench repair, mental health training and a city-wide mass notification system were cut from the budget.
There was tension between some councillors over the enhanced capital funding that provides funding for ward projects. Counc. Irek Kusmierczyk said he had agreement among most councillors that the enhanced capital budget would be divided fairly and somewhat evenly between wards. In the end, the wards that include Olde Riverside and Sandwich Towne fared better than others.
Kusmierczyk said something happened on Sunday night he doesn’t understand which abandons the principal of distribution councillors had agreed to.
Forest Glade will be getting basketball court improvements which pleased Kusmierczyk who said he reluctantly supported the enhanced capital funding.
Two councillors, Fred Francis and JoAnne Gignac, voted against the tax hike. The 1.73 per cent tax increase is the first in eight years, according to mayor Drew Dilkens.
“That is less than the rate of inflation, which I think is probably lower than any other municipality in Essex County and of course lower than many across Ontario,” said Dilkens. “At some point you are cutting the fat and you hit a bone. This was the year that we hit the bone and we had to deal with the fact that there are inflationary pressures that are beyond our control.”
Gignac does not believe there has been any negative impact as the result of years with no tax increase. According to Gignac, the city has increased its spending on roads and sewers and has reduced its debt while increasing reserves.
“When people say that zero per cent has resulted in services in deterioration, I’d like to know where,” said Gignac who represents Ward Six. “I am pleased with the enhanced capital budget. I think it is a real plus for the ward.”
Counc. Bortolin voted against the enhanced capital funding and said that process mattered and the selection of ward projects was done properly.
Dilkens said the tax rate is going to allow the city to continue to deliver public services.
“The enhancements include bulk garbage collection,” said Dilkens.
There is concern low-income residents may not be able to afford the $20 fee for bulk garbage collection. Karlene Nielsen of the Ford City Neighborhood Renewal is hopeful her group can consult with the city and come up with an even more affordable plan.
“I keep pushing the agenda I’d really love to see a free pickup,” said Neilsen. “I think that is really where it needs to go so that we have the most compliance and the greatest reduction in dumping.”
The head of the Community Housing Corporation, which oversees 5,000 low income homes in Windsor, is also concerned about the impact of the budget.
CHC CEO Kirk Whittal asked for $2.3 million for capital and operating expenses. The current budget provides $1.3 million.
“There will be some level of reduction on the operating and a $1 million reduction in capital,” said Whittal.
“Capital shortfall is a big issue when my (housing) stock is close to 48 years old. It’s like your home… “It needs repairs to be kept up.”