Property taxes up just $1.63 a month for 2013


The average Norfolk homeowner will pay less than $20 more in property taxes this year — the lowest increase since the county was created in 2001.
The average home assessed at $193,900 will pay $2,377 in property taxes, up $19.56 or 0.8 per cent from 2012.
County council last Friday unanimously approved its annual tax-supported operating budget totalling $67.5 million, up from $65.7 million in 2012.
The average home will be taxed $1.63 more a month.
These figures include payments to local school boards, which are down slightly this year.
Councillors examined the 2013 budget for 17.5 hours over three days last week.
They cut $1.3 million in proposed spending to achieve the historic tax increase of less than one per cent.
Simcoe Coun. Charlie Luke was not present for Friday’s final vote.
Port Dover Coun. John Wells, who has been a county councillor since Norfolk was created in 2001, cannot remember a lower increase in annual property taxes.
The 2013 budget maintains and, in some cases, improves services, Port Dover Coun. John Wells said after the budget was approved.
He pointed to positive items in the budget:
o The continuation of the Ride Norfolk bus service;
o A grant of up to $90,000 to help repair bridges on the Lynn Valley Trail;
o $50,000 to help Norfolk General Hospital recruit doctors for the area;
o And contributions of $35,000 a year for five years to the South Central Ontario Region organization of municipalities for economic development.
“We didn’t take an axe and cut down the tree,” he said.
“We might have trimmed a couple of branches but we also left a couple of branches for growth.”
“I hope it’s a win-win for everyone,” Coun. Wells said.
“It restores the faith in the community that we (councillors) are not here for the sole purpose of not listening to cries for help to keep the budget low,” he said.
A freeze on new hiring, once it was fully understood by councillors, changed the atmosphere and attitude during budget discussions, Coun. Wells said.
The Port Dover councillor also praised the leadership of Mayor Dennis Travale.
Asked what accounted for the low tax increase this year, Mayor Travale told The Maple Leaf “it’s a little of everything.”
Senior staff did much advance work on the budget, distilling needs versus wants, he said.
The county’s investments in capital projects like roads and bridges over the last six years have started to pay off, the mayor said.
Capital spending is catching up and will level off over the next few years, he said.
But Mayor Travale warned residents shouldn’t necessarily expect a low property tax increase again in 2014.
Who knows which responsibilities might be downloaded by the province? the mayor asked.
And he cited two issues that might cost more than expected this year: repairing the Misner Dam (if the Ministry of Natural Resources permits) and repairing concrete at the former underpass on Norfolk Street North in Simcoe.
Council will have to decide what to do about both issues, the mayor said.
The good-news budget was helped along by $1.3 million in savings on last year’s snow-clearing budget.
Councillors directed $200,000 of the savings to cut tax bills.
Two last-minute items were added to the 2013 budget.
Council approved up to $90,000 as the county’s share of bridge repairs on the Lynn Valley trail between Port Dover and Simcoe.
It also approved spending up to $21,500 to upgrade the public sound system in the Simcoe council chamber.

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