The first draft of the Minden Hills budget has a 7.54 per cent tax-supported increase from 2022.

Tabled Feb. 2, CAO Trisha McKibbin said the big hits were wages and benefits (35 per cent), materials, supplies and other operating costs (34 per cent), policing (12 per cent), contributions to cemetery and capital funds of seven per cent, contributions to reserves six per cent and serving debt six per cent.

“The effect of changing global markets, supply chain issues and inflation have created financial pressures on Minden Hills’ operating and capital budgets,” McKibbin added. “Maintaining current service levels, while balancing these pressures and increases, were at top of mind when building the first draft of the 2023 budget.”

The budget includes money to improve roads, public safety, comply with regulations, and for accessibility. There is also cash for studies to help the township, with a strategic plan and asset management plan.

Director of finance, Greg Bedard, noted property assessments in Ontario are still based on 2016 MPAC valuations, resulting in a growing disparity between the assessed value of a property and its market value.

Minden Hills raises about 70 per cent of the money it needs from property taxation. It gets upper-level grants, this year totalling about $2.25 million. It also raises money from user fees.

Bedard said wages and benefits were heading north, with annualization of four new positions, pro-rated in last year’s budget, a 1.75 per cent cost of living increase, people moving up the township’s pay scale and increased volunteer firefighter hours.

They’re budgeting a 22 per cent increase for fuel, and more for maintaining fleet. Insurance is up 7.6 per cent. A little over $957,000 would go to reserves, with almost half for roads.

As far as where money will go, public works and roads will eat up 64 per cent of the spend, followed by 20 per cent for community services, 14 per cent of public works and environmental and two per cent for the CAO’s office to develop a strategic plan.

Community services wants money for accessibility improvements, to fix the boardwalk and Village Green walkway.

Public works is seeking more than $2 million for roads, guardrails and an asset management plan. Landfills are set to cost the township $575,000.

Planning continues to experience operating costs associated with the need for external planning consultants. This has resulted in the budget for consultants to increase from $60,000 in 2022 to $125,000 in 2023. Many municipalities are dealing with similar issues, with an apparent lack of qualified or available planning professionals provincewide. There’s a proposal to up fees at the S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena and community centre by three per cent and contract out grass-cutting.

Mayor Bob Carter noted 78 per cent of the budget was for public works and infrastructure.

“We have probably underspent on infrastructure over the past number of years. At some point, it comes back to haunt you. We really have to emphasize and focus on our roads, bridges, culverts and buildings.”

Carter also told viewers of the meeting, it is a first draft. “We will go through this in a number of iterations. We need to get the budget right for ourselves and all of our constituents in Minden Hills.”