The County of Haliburton council finalized its 2019 draft budget Feb. 25 with an expected 5.72 per cent residential tax rate increase for the year.
Council unanimously approved the draft budget at a special meeting according to Dysart et al Mayor Andrea Roberts.
County warden Liz Danielsen said the increase is a result of cost of living increases, losses in funding and a gradual increase to reserve levels established by upper levels of government.
“I’m very pleased with the results of our discussions today,” she said in an email. “Council looked very carefully at some of the outstanding items and while they were very difficult decisions, we were unanimous in the direction we ultimately decided to take.”
Danielsen also noted a number of projects as raising the budget, including $226,000 for flood plain mapping, $121,000 in increased winter maintenance costs and $54,000 towards low-income housing development in Minden Hills.
Roberts spoke to the county budget at her council’s meeting Feb. 26. She said rural municipalities are challenged to hold tax rates given a small commercial tax base compared to urban centres.
“They’re able to hold the line on the residential individual property and make it on the commercial real estate,” Roberts said. “That’s a challenge we have here.”
Danielsen said there was also some discussion about the county’s governance structure and next steps will be considered in the coming months.
“At this point there are no small number of areas within which we already partner in purchasing and providing service to the county and there are many more opportunities for us to share, hopefully creating a ‘made in Haliburton’ solution to governance and streamlining service,” she said.
Some $75,000 has also been allotted for the creation of a contract position for physician recruitment, Danielsen said. However, economic development will not be immediately included in the role as council initially directed. A staff report said time is needed to make an operating framework for an economic development position.
“In the interim, council has agreed the physician recruitment position be created on a part-time basis to ensure that work begins as soon as possible,” Danielsen said.
The budget also includes an additional $40,000 to begin a climate mitigation and adaptation plan, according to a staff report. Another $50,000 has been allotted to implement, review and enforce new shoreline preservation in the county.