2005 budget process nears end

With a better idea of what the tax levy increase will be, the 2005 budget process is nearing its end, Fort Frances CAO Mark McCaig said yesterday.
“It was a significantly less stressful exercise than last year,” he noted.
As report in yesterday’s Daily Bulletin, town council is looking at an overall tax levy increase of 2.05 percent across all classes for 2005.
McCaig said the increase in the levy is to balance the budget by covering the town’s operating deficit of roughly $200,000, adding that amount includes contributions to capital spending and reserves.
Contributing to reserves has been something council has been in agreement on this year.
In recent years, council either has been unable to do so (due to the financial situation last year) or chose not to do so to prevent or lessen levy increases to taxpayers (as seemed to be the case with the previous council).
“Not putting money away is just not responsible,” said McCaig.
He added the tax levy increase to property owners is “comparable” to increases in uncontrollable costs to the town this year, such as the
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Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board levy.
The projected levy increase will amount to a 2.75 percent levy increase for residential property owners. For those with property assessed at $100,000, this would mean a hike of about $22 to their tax bill.
The other tax increases would be:
•5.42 percent for multi-residential;
•1.61 percent for commercial occupied;
•0.42 percent for commercial vacant;
•0.55 percent for industrial occupied/vacant;
•2.09 percent for pipelines; and
•2.75 percent for farmlands.
This rate won’t be definite, however, until council passes the town’s 2005 budget at a future date.
Council also agreed Monday night to carry forward a surplus of $205,149 from the 2004 budget and put it into the reserves funds in the 2005 budget.
This surplus was due to several factors, including the provincial “gas tax” rebate.
As of Monday, the budget showed reserves at just over $6 million, but this total will go down if projects like the underpass restoration get the go-ahead and the town has to contribute its share (around $650,000).
Residents will have a chance to find out more about the 2005 budget at a public meeting slated for Monday, May 2 at the Civic Centre.
McCaig said the public is highly encouraged to come to that meeting, or to watch it on Channel 10, adding having a public meeting to explain the budget is a means for the town to “make the budget process as transparent as possible.”
He noted terms such as “uncontrollable costs,” “capital projects,” and so forth will be explained at this budget meeting.
McCaig noted it’s likely council then would vote on the budget at its May 9 meeting.