Town residents likely to see tax hike in 2003

While the town’s 2003 budget won’t be up for approval until Jan. 14, CAO BIll Naturkach said it’s likely residents will be seeing a property tax increase once again in the New Year.
“It looks like there will be a 4.25 percent residential tax increase,” Naturkach noted Tuesday afternoon. “For the homeowner assessed at $100,000, that would equal an increase of $50.22.”
The hike was all but inevitable, said Naturkach, since the town has been dead set on continuing its commitment to prevent increases for commercial and industrial rates (and, if possible, lower them) and so it has to get the revenue from somewhere.
Last year’s budget saw a two percent jump for residential ratepayers. All the details of the budget, which is balanced at $18,940,200 in its current draft, will be available to residents at a public meeting preceding the Jan. 14 council meeting.
On behalf of town administration, Naturkach said he felt the budget “achieves the projects we believe council wants to see without seeing a significant tax increase” and that it has been a process “driven by the reduction in our revenues.”
The little public input that was submitted to the town this past summer, as well as the results of a citizen satisfaction survey in late summer, were considered in the budget process.
Naturkach also said the draft budget does not include, but will have to be considered further by council and administration prior to Jan. 14, two recent requests from local groups.
“At [Monday] night’s meeting, the ‘Re-Inventing Fort Frances’ committee filed an interim report and is asking to be considered in the 2003 budget,” he said.
The amount in question is $80,000 for a mural on the “lap” building and signage at the international bridge.
“They were considered in the budget and some money was set aside,” Naturkach said. “But as we worked through it, before we received this request, there were so many unknowns there was no reason to put more dollars on the table.”
Naturkach added the second reconsideration was to install a sprinkler system at the ’52 Canadians Arena.
“We previously made the decision not to do it twice, but of course, the Chamber of Commerce has recently made a request to install it, to which council agreed to discuss,” he said.
As reported in last week’s Tuesday Daily Bulletin, such a sprinkler system would cost about $150,000. The Chamber’s request stems from the fact that arena no longer can be used for non ice-related events, such as a trade show.
In other news at Monday’s meeting, council agreed to offer in-kind services to the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship once again in 2003.
A few examples of these include providing street sweeper service before the event, waiving tipping fees, supplying picnic tables and paint, signs for re-routing truck traffic, and allowing use of the Sand Bay dock as the starting site and an official tournament check-in station.
Also Monday night, council:
– authorized the carry-over of the 2002 budget amount of $16,000 to replace the Fifth Street lift station motors to the 2003 budget to repair the existing ones;
– authorized the carry-over of the balance of $976,000 to complete the La Verendrye Parkway to the 2003 budget;
– authorized $15,800 for engineering consultant surplus fees and $15,000 for firefighting pond expansion be carried over to the 2003 budget;
– authorized $9,800 for a Pither’s point Park retaining wall and $5,000 for Pither’s Point Park camping fill be carried over into the 2003 budget;
– authorized $16,500 for a high lift pump and high lift pump installation be carried over to the 2003 budget, and that $25,000 in the 2002 budget for water tower controls be carried over into the water reserve;
– authorized the award of tender for town maintenance services to Galbraith Electric, Ed Halvorsen Construction, and Pryde’s Plumbing and Heating (the tender is for three years starting Jan. 1, 2003);
– agreed to a financial contribution of $1,000 to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario’s Bill 210 (the new electricity regulation) fund;
– authorized staff to transfer any year-end surplus to reserves;
– directed clerk Glen Treftlin to reschedule council meetings for Oct. 13, Nov. 10, and Dec. 22, 2003 to Oct. 14, Nov. 3, and Dec. 15 due to Thanksgiving Day, municipal elections, and Christmas next year; and
– received the Dec. 16 personnel report, which noted the appointment of Marla Simpson as the centennial celebration co-ordinator and Carolyn McTighe as Internet trainer at the Fort Frances Public Library.