The public and councillors received an overview of the draft Minden Hills budget Jan. 18 – with a starting point of a 9.41 per cent tax levy increase over 2023.

Factoring in assessment growth, it equates to a 7.81 per cent hike, CAO Cynthia Fletcher and treasurer Greg Bedard told council.

A little over a third (35 per cent) would go to wages and benefits; 33 per cent for materials, supplies and operating costs; 12 per cent for policing; nine per cent for contribution to other funds, such as cemetery and capital; six per cent for debt servicing and five per cent to reserves.

Fletcher said the capital budget includes investments to improve roads, public safety, regulatory compliance and accessibility.

“Council, staff and the public spend a great deal of time and consideration in developing a budget that provides necessary services to residents, businesses and visitors,” she added.

Bedard said the typical single-family home in Minden Hills has an assessed value of $209,000. This property would see a $68.56 increase if the draft went unchanged. The typical seasonal recreational dwelling has an assessed value of $316,000 and would see a $103.66 increase. The impact on $100,000 of residential assessment is $32.81.

Property owners contribute 72 per cent of the cost of running Minden Hills, while grants are 15 per cent, penalties, interest and other revenues seven per cent and six per cent in user fees.

Bedard said government grants had dropped this year by about $60,000. It’s anticipated tipping fees, building bylaw and planning department fees will be less, while recreation centre revenues should increase.

He said inflation and supply chain issues are impacting the budget. For example, he’s seeking 4.8 per cent more for fuel costs, and additional financing is needed for vehicles, utilities and insurance.

Staff are proposing a new ditching program. Bedard said, “many township roads do not have adequate ditches, and this hinders water from draining properly. The lack of proper ditching results in washouts, poor driving surfaces, and increased operational costs to repair.” The proposed drainage program will focus on improving ditches and water drainage, with a specific focus on roads identified for resurfacing in the following calendar year.

The costs associated with operating landfills and transfer stations have increased. Policing costs are up as well.

The draft calls for transferring $867,460 to reserves. Debt servicing costs are headed north, projected to increase to $1.2 million in 2025.

Bedard said the township is looking to use just shy of $1.2m in reserves, $2.255m in loans; about $383,00 in grants and $859,500 in taxation.

Staff are further proposing a two per cent water rate increase and three per cent wastewater hike.

The biggest ticket items are $1.5 million for the construction of the Scotch Line transfer station and nearly $1.4 million for road resurfacing. Council will resume budget talks in February and hopes to finalize the document March 5.

Public input

Only three people spoke at the public meeting.

Jim and Bernie Davis talked about the need for better public washrooms.

“There continues to be a problem with the lack of facilities for the public in our community,” Jim said. “I am here hoping that the township can find some funding to improve our public washrooms, especially as we are an aging population and it is becoming more and more of an issue.” However, he said it would benefit young families, too, and keep people downtown.

Bernie said they could look to Bracebridge as an example.

Mayor Bob Carter said public washroom companies present new concepts and ideas at the ROMA and AMO conferences.

“I would agree with you that there is something that needs to be done.”

Bill Blakes said he believes there is a problem with the township’s water billing system. He claims readings are being taken eight to 14 days before the beginning of the billing cycle, and sometimes four to eight days after. “That meant during the summer… we were getting billed for an extra 14 to 15 days, which we already paid for in the last bill, and which we would pay for in the next bill.” He said the issue has been going on for years.

Carter said, “I know this has been a problem for some time that I’ve been on council and it’s something that we have to do better with and we will.”