Where other area municipalities are inflicting tax hikes outstripping inflation, Wellesley looked at the tough economic times and opted for a 1.25-per-cent increase for 2009. A pared-down budget won preliminary approval from councillors meeting Tuesday night.
The increase on the township portion of the property tax bill amounts to another $9.53 on an average home assessed at $216,000, boosting the annual average to $730.78.
Overall, Wellesley expects to work with an operating budget of $5,800,363.44 this year, with capital expenditures totaling $4,227,473.
The 1.25 per cent figure is dramatically lower than the 5.5 per cent hike approved last year.
“The direction that staff received from council was to prepare a budget that had a very minimal impact on the taxpayer. By the same token, we wanted to ensure that we continued to take care of issues that related to health and safety, that we continued to build reserves so that we don’t fall behind and have to play catch-up again, and that we continued to support the tax-rate stabilization reserve as a contributing factor to the budget,” said chief administrative officer Susan Duke.
While last year’s budget accounted for a number of big-ticket items, including numerous road and bridge improvements, renovations to the Crosshill council chambers, a significant addition to the municipal administration building, and the purchase of a rescue vehicle for the St. Clements fire station, this year’s to-do list is perhaps smaller by comparison.
While some major projects, like the Hawkesville Road reconstruction project, are underway, this year’s list is smaller and more tentative. A number of projects are on the books, but are pending funding grants from upper tier governments. That list includes repairs and upgrades to the Weimar Line, Campbell Drain Bridge, the Broadway/Steffler Road upgrade – for which the provincial and federal governments this week announced $664,534 – Siegner Bridge rehabilitation, and pavement extensions to Greenwood Hill Road, Weimar Line and Hessen Strasse.
“There is a list of projects that we would do if we got the funding for them, but we can’t build those into our budget unless we know that we’re getting the money,” said Duke.
As for new staffing positions, council opted to make provisions to allow for the addition of a part-time position.
Without knowing exactly the effects of the economic down turn on Wellesley residents, Duke said that staff and councillors were conscious of the economic landscape when crafting the 2009 budget.
“Certainly, council as a whole was concerned about the economic conditions … the situation that we currently find ourselves in,” said Duke.
“Staff came in with very minimal requests. We really did keep our preliminary budgets as tight and as controlled as we possibly could.”
Before giving final approval to the budget, councillors will hear from residents at a public meeting Mar. 2 at the Crosshill chambers.