Dysart council decided against further cuts to their draft budget and finalized it with a 6.71 per cent tax rate increase March 13.

The figure is a reduction from the 7.35 per cent increase presented to council at its budget meeting on Feb. 14.
The reduction between the drafts is due to funding a $65,000 replacement vehicle for Parks and Recreation from reserves rather than property taxes.

Mayor Andrea Roberts cited increases to the roads and environmental departments, as well as a particularly harsh winter, for the taxation increase.

“This is a budget we can all stand behind and be proud of going forward,” Roberts said.

Council discussed other budget cuts to reduce the taxation increase, including taking out a new $20,000 electronic sign for A.J. LaRue arena, $30,000 earmarked for arena planning and $20,000 for water refill stations.

Deputy Mayor Patrick Kennedy suggested deferring the electronic sign and water refill stations for this year.

“Six point seven per cent is high,” Kennedy said. “Six point seven is a lot to ask our people.”

Coun. John Smith said he was prepared to put off the sign, noting it was presented as being able to generate some revenue through advertising.

“I’d certainly support taking that out until we see a more robust business case,” Smith said. “On the water refill stations, I think that’s something, from an environmental point of view, we’re seeing a lot of pushback in our community. People looking for alternatives to single-use plastics.”

Roberts said the sign would complete the A.J. LaRue Arena renovation, largely finished in 2013. The sign has been put off in the years since then.

“Do we just keep pulling it out because we want to come in with a magic number?” Roberts said. “We fought, we dug our heels in, we brought it down. I personally don’t see the big win knocking off 0.25 per cent.”

Coun. Larry Clarke expressed concern about the $30,000 arena planning, intended to help develop a plan for renovations to the upstairs. He said the infrastructure committee should examine the matter first.

Roberts replied any plan would still be decided by the infrastructure committee and the money could stay parked if they decide not to go ahead with work.

Coun. Walt McKechnie supported removing all three of the discussed items, while Smith supported removing the sign and plan funding. The remainder of council supported the budget as presented.

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