Woolwich is forecasting a 2.3-per-cent tax increase for 2011, the smallest jump in half a decade. With the elimination of a special surcharge for new recreational facilities, the hike offsets planned expenditures not covered by assessment growth, predicted to be 2.5 per cent next year.
The 2.3 per cent matches the rate of inflation, measured by the consumer price index, expected in 2011, director of finance Richard Petherick told councillors meeting Tuesday night.
Based on an average home assessed at $214,000, such a hike would amount to about $15 on the municipal portion of the tax bill.
His predictions come at the start of the budget process, expected to wrap up next February.
“In the current economic climate, this budget year will continue to be difficult as we need to balance the realities of necessary and effective service levels while not causing a significant upswing in our current tax rates.”
Only when the township gets deeper into the budget process will the full extent of the funding requirements be known, however, he suggested. Issues such as spending on roads and bridges – the subject of two recent studies – and the operational shortfalls at the Woolwich Memorial Centre will determine the balance between service levels and tax hikes.
Among the other unknowns is the future of the Grand River Transit bus service to St. Jacobs and Elmira. Currently a pilot project funded by Waterloo Region, if the service becomes permanent it could add another $300,000 in spending. The township could look at a special-area levy on residents of the two communities to fund the route, said Petherick.
The 2.3-per-cent increase does appear doable, said chief administrative officer David Brenneman in a later interview.
“We feel it’s a manageable figure from an overall operating and capital budget,” he said. “We realize we’re still in tough economic times.”
As the process moves along, the township will be looking at all options, including options for cuts, though no specifics have been discussed. Ideally, service levels will be maintained, he said, but issues such as cutbacks or alternative funding such as debentures for pressing capital projects will have to be addressed.
“Those are things that may have to be looked at once we get into the budget being drafted.
“Will there need to be some hard decisions? Absolutely.”