Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tax hike to be small

While the 2014 budget hasn’t been finalized yet, it’s likely that residential taxpayers here will see a tax increase of less than one percent this year.
This will translate to an average increase of $86 for homeowners.

Of the 3,073 residential properties to see a tax increase, 2,099 will go up less than $100, 696 will go up from $100-$200, 182 will go up $200-$300, 93 will go up $300-$500, two will increase by $500-$700, and one will go up by more than $700.
“I think it’s really good. We’ve taken everything into consideration,” said Mayor Roy Avis, noting the $86 increase could be higher or lower based on changes to individual property assessments.
At most, property owners whose assessment has gone up will pay the equivalent of a three percent tax increase.
“Council’s done a lot of work, administration’s done a lot of work,” Mayor Avis said.
“We felt that we haven’t really gone in and cut services,” he noted.
The mayor added they were able to find some other areas where they were able to get revenue, and reserves are in good shape.
“Going forward, it’s going to get tougher for us as the mill assessment decreases,” Mayor Avis warned.
“But right now, with the situation with the community, we felt it was best to try to maintain the level of services.”
Multi-residential taxes, meanwhile, will go up an average of $315 while commercial occupied will go up an average of $389.
The town still is waiting for new industrial tax ratios from the province.
Overall, the tax increases will generate $343,338 in extra revenue for the town this year.
The operating budget currently is balanced at $21.9 million, with $8.8 million in capital projects and a water and sewer operating budget of $4.7 million.
The 2014 budget estimates the town’s reserves will at $10.7 million by the end of 2014—a full $400,000 more than at the end of 2013.
Operations and Facilities manager Doug Brown said the town now has 16 lots for sale in the new Huffman subdivision and the town’s reserves haven’t really gone down because of it.
He added reserves will be further strengthened once those lots start selling.
“Are we becoming ready for an influx of industrial people that want to live in the Town of Fort Frances? Are we better now than what we were a year ago?” Brown asked council.
“I’ve heard a lot of people say that we did this Huffman subdivision and it wasn’t really warranted,” he noted.
“Are we better now than a year ago?” he reiterated.
Mayor Avis said he felt the town is better off because of the subdivision.
“I think we did some planning for the future that has put us in a position where we’re able to react instantly,” he remarked.
“If somebody comes forward, we’re able to react to that situation immediately.”
Mayor Avis said he hears people ask him all the time why the town “wasted money” developing the lots, but feels it was “a prudent business decision” which will pay off down the road.
“If you stay stagnant, you’ll go broke,” he stressed. “But if you want to improve your organization, you’ve got to reinvest in that organization.”
The mayor added more economic development is what’s needed for this community right now.
Mayor Avis also said if there’s people who think council did the wrong thing with the Huffman subdivision, there’s a municipal election coming up this fall.
Those people can elect a new mayor and council, who will change things to the way they want it, he noted.

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