Lanark Highlands Budget 2013.
Lanark Highlands Township treasurer Robert Bunker makes a presentation to council during a special budget-themed committee-of-the-whole meeting this past December.
LANARK - Taxpayers in Lanark Highlands Township are looking at a two per cent rise in municipal taxes this year.
“Most people accept inflation factors” as the reason for the rise, said Lanark Highlands treasurer Robert Bunker, during an interview last week. “Most people realize that you can’t keep your taxes the same when all of your costs have gone up.”
A public meeting on the budget will be held in the council chambers in Lanark at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 29 to discuss the $5,761,500 budget.
“Unless there is some issue that stands out, it is a done deal… but someone could notice something in it,” said Bunker, of the budget which will then be voted on that night. “Having it approved at the Jan. 27 meeting, that is the earliest ever, as far as I know,” though he has worked with previous councils for which the final budget vote did not happen until June. The earlier a budget can be presented, for example, the earlier the public works department can go out and seek public tenders for road contracts over the summer. The later the budget is left, the fewer the options as contractors take on other work, and the higher the price.
“I’ve got to give them (council) a lot of the credit,” for getting it done early, said Bunker.
Part of the reason for the relative speed of getting the budget passed while, for example, Perth will still be debating its budget at a Jan. 25 meeting, is because budget discussions were cleaved from regular committee-of-the-whole discussions, and relegated to their own stand-alone, special meetings, usually on Monday afternoons.
One of the major projects under consideration is work to the French Line bridge. Just how much money the township will have to spend on it is dependant on how much grant money is green-lighted by the province for the overall $1.2 million cost. The provincial government could fund up to 90 per cent of the cost, or less.
“You’d like 90 per cent,” said Bunker with a grin. “(But) if they come back and say ‘We will do 70 per cent,’ we still have to go and find that 30 per cent remaining.”
The tender for the design and environmental assessment (EA) for the bridge stands at about $90,000, which is all the work that will likely be able to be done on the bridge this year. An EA and design tender for the Galbraith Road bridge will likely be ready for summer too. Meanwhile, Robertson Drive is looking at getting either a new sidewalk or seeing the road expanded to accommodate a walking lane, at a cost of about $100,000, while resurface treatment at Ashby Road looks set to come in at $110,000. Grinding and resurfacing on French Line Road is also set to cost more than $210,000.
“These are the big items,” said Bunker. “There aren’t a lot of them but then there isn’t a lot of money either.”
Away from roads, but related to them, Lanark Village is set to get a $65,000 snow plow truck, while the township will pick up a surface sweeper for $22,000. Replacing asphalt shingles on the sand shed at Tatlock Road will also cost about $75,000.
No departments have seen budget decreases, though the township ran the risk of running a deficit this year thanks to the major, unexpected costs, like clean up from the wind storm last year in White Lake, at a cost of about $81,000, and replacing two culverts at a cost of about $400,000. The major dump of snow at the very end of December put the snow removal budget about $100,000 over budget. Bunker joked that the money in reserves, saved “for a snowy day,” as opposed to a rainy day, was used to fill the gap, so “we don’t have to hit the taxpayers.” Before the December snow storms, the deficit stood at about $282,168.
“We just have to hope that Mother Nature is a little easier on us this year,” said Bunker.
Another cost that the township will be taking on board is a challenge it will take to the Ontario Municipal Board, when the province disagreed with aspects of the township’s official plan.