Highlands East taxpayers are looking at a 2.02 per cent municipal tax rate increase following a March 14 council meeting.

With growth representing 0.68 per cent of revenue, the total tax rate jump is a modest 1.84 per cent. For 2023, it equates to an extra $16.83 per $100,000 of assessment for residential ratepayers.

Overall, the township budget is $182,332 more than last year. Highlands East requires $6,932,132 to cover costs. The largest chunk of that, more than 45 per cent, is for roads. Number two is policing, at 16.44 per cent, and then general government at 15.57 per cent.

Deputy CAO and treasurer, Brittany McCaw, said little had changed since staff presented the first draft of the budget on Jan. 31. The increase then was 2.05 per cent. She said there had been “some minor changes and adjustments through February” to get them to 2.02 per cent. One thing added was money for the changeroom at the Cardiff Pool, for which council approved a tender earlier this year. That money has come from an increased transfer from reserves.

Councillors did not comment on the final draft during the meeting, but deputy mayor Cec Ryall said Jan. 31, “I’m unbelievably shocked at the fact we could get it down to two per cent. You guys did an awesome job doing that. But with that in mind, I want to make sure we’re covering off some of the things you’re going to do. I just want to make sure, at the end of the day, that our two per cent is a good number and where it needs to be.”

At the time, McCaw said, “we knew this was going to be a difficult budget year just with rising costs, things that are out of our control, but I would like to say that staff have done an excellent job of looking at their accounts and looking at where they could trim but without cutting services.”

There has been an across-the-board 1.75 per cent wage hike, and a 6.1 per cent jump in group benefits. Insurance has skyrocketed by 17.19 per cent.

The township is spending $362,500 on a new grader, $160,000 on a new tractor, $40,000 for Inlet Bay Road work, $40,000 for Gem Road work, $50,000 for Upper Paudash road work, $250,000 on the Earles Road culvert, $90,000 for garage roof repairs and $20,000 for guiderails. There will also be work on the Gooderham Dam, Hadlington bridge, Donroy culverts, McColls bridge, Buxton Road and Pioneer Road.

Other big-ticket items include $100,000 to put towards the design and build of a new municipal office, $50,000 for a corporate strategic plan, $25,000 for records management, $25,000 for climate change initiatives, and money for an updated official plan.

Council also passed a four per cent user fee increase for water and wastewater. Money is being put aside for the lagoon system, and there will be work on the Monck Road sewage pumphouse. The Cardiff well pumphouse is on the list for work as well.

Some money will go to landfill attendant shelters at Bicroft, Hwy. 28 and Mumford Road, gates at Mumford landfill, and tree clearing at Monmouth landfill.

Parks and recreation will see arena upgrades, work on Herlihey Park, Esson Church repairs and the trails master plan.

Highlands East next meets April 11.