Town still working on 2003 budget

As administration and council continue to wade through the 2003 budget process, it’s unclear whether it will be finalized by the end of the year—and if residents will end up seeing a tax hike.
“I’d say we’re three-quarters through the process,” Fort Frances CAO Bill Naturkach said Tuesday.
The committee of the whole had its third meeting directly concerning the budget Monday.
“The staff is going to be doing some work on this side of the table now, so to speak,” Naturkach added. “I hope we can have another budget meeting either on Dec. 9 or Dec. 16.”
Naturkach noted there has been some hold up on the process because the town hasn’t received the assessment roll from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing yet.
Because of this, it’s still unclear if there will be a tax levy increase this year, and if so, how much. “There’s been no direction from council that it would even allow one at this point,” said Naturkach.
But he did say any tax increase would have to fall on the heads of residents because the town won’t hike commercial and industrial tax rates as they already exceed many other municipalities in Ontario.
“Or we’ll have to be creative with the funding,” added Naturkach. “Every year, it gets harder and harder. We really have to grind it out to make it work.”
Last year, the budget, which was finalized Nov. 23, saw a 1.2 percent levy increase—with a two percent jump for residential ratepayers.
While Naturkach noted there wasn’t much public input into the budget at a special meeting held in late summer, he stressed administration and council aren’t forgetting about what residents want.
“We did get some information through the citizen satisfaction survey that we’re taking into consideration,” he said.
For instance, one survey question which asked “How should the town pay for services that are expanded or maintained,” 65 percent of those surveyed said the town should look for a funding alternative to increased taxation and user fees when expanding services while 39 percent felt increased taxes were okay when simply maintaining services.
The survey also takes into account which areas citizens feel the town needs to immediately improve (such as road repairs, recycling service, tourist attractions, etc.)