Dysart et al began its 2021 budget deliberations starting from a zero per cent increase to its side of the property tax Dec. 11.

Councillors reviewed the first draft budget provided by staff, which maintains the taxation rate from 2020.

Mayor Andrea Roberts said the budget may not finish there, but complimented the start. “A zero per cent budget is prudent and responsible in these times and it’s a great, great starting point,” Roberts said.

Sculpture forest seeks support

The Haliburton Sculpture Forest presented to Dysart council Dec. 15 seeking an annual $12,500 contribution from the municipality.

Forest board chair Barb Bolin and curator Jim Blake highlighted how visitors doubled this past summer, from approximately 9,000 to 18,000. However, they said the increased popularity of the forest means trails wearing down, requiring more resources and operating dollars.

“We realized the sculpture forest has hit a tipping point,” Bolin said.

Mayor Andrea Roberts said council would consider the request at an upcoming budget meeting.

Rails End Gallery asks for help

The Rails End Gallery also sought support from council as it struggles with less foot traffic and events due to the pandemic.

Director Laurie Jones asked council to cover propane and hydro expenses at the facility – which would amount to approximately $6,250 annually – in addition to the $50,000 contribution the municipality already pays.

Coun. Larry Clarke, the council representative on the gallery board, said arts are important to the community and tourism.

“I don’t think what Laurie is asking for is unreasonable. It’s been a very challenging year for just about anybody that has to rely on foot traffic,” Clarke said. “We have to support our partnerships.”

Roberts also said the council would consider the request for the budget.

Septic program under new management

Council approved Toronto-based WSP to take over its septic re-inspection program.

The company was the only one to bid for the contract and currently manages the programs in Algonquin Highlands and Minden Hills. The cost will be revenue-neutral for the municipality, but the company will charge property owners $257.64 including HST over the course of the program. The program will restart next year in May, with the remaining inspection areas expected to be finished by 2025.

Coun. John Smith asked whether homeowners could have their properties examined ahead of schedule by other qualified inspectors and add a septic tank pump out, which is no longer municipally mandated.

Chief Building Officer Karl Korpela said WSP would have to agree to review reports from other inspectors. but added that should not be an issue.

Smith was the only councillor to vote against the bid and expressed concern about WSP being the only bid on the contract, and not using local providers. (Dysart et al news compiled by Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter).

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