Region of Halton Budget Available ONLINE

I thought I had posted the link before but apparently I did everything but in one of my last posts.

You can find the Region of Halton budget for 2013 online at www.halton.ca/budget

Its a large document with 570 pages to read through so as many have said to me, if you have a problem sleeping…open this up. 🙂

This budget, like most is very important to the future of the region of Halton and it contains funding for a number of initiatives such as the new 3 bag limit and blue box program, enhancements to the waste water management systems and spending for affordable housing.  Overall the budget comes in line with a 0 % increase, not including spending on the police etc.

The Town of Milton Budget wont be made available until around November 26th which gives us a grand total of 14 days to review it, get feedback from the public and discuss it (Monday December 10th at 7pm…11th also if necessary.)  I am working on getting some information if its available before then to post here online to get your feedback.

If you have any questions about the budget or anything contained in the document, please feel free to email me mike@mikecluett.ca and I can answer them for you.  Regional Councillor Colin Best is having a budget meeting on November 27th at the Milton Sports Centre at 7pm Room #4 so send me an email if you can make it.

Budget Time Is Coming

Its that time of year again.

No, not Halloween…thats over.  Not Christmas time either.  Its 2013 BUDGET TIME.

Now these words normally spread fear in the hearts and minds (and therefore changes the sleeping patterns) of elected officials but its a very important time of the year.  If youve been reading the local papers, other Halton area municipalities are beginning their budget discussions.  Just today, there was an overview of the Halton 2013 budget presented to regional council and should be made available online today www.halton.ca/budget for public view.

The Town of Milton budget will be available a little later this month on November 26th…unless they get it ready sooner.  Id much prefer to have it available earlier as to give members of council and the public time to go over some of the major projects underway.  The town does have budget call reports throughout the year as Ive posted on my blog many times and this is the final budget to be reviewed before the meeting on December 10th and 11th.

As I outlined on my Twitter feed earlier today from the Regional Council meeting, here are some of the highlights of the 2013 Halton budget overview.

* Long term plan for Halton might be increases at or around rate of inflation. Provincial cutbacks might throw curve ball in future years.

10:17 AM – 14 Nov 12

* Clr Meed Ward asking what can future years increase look like for Halton & sites her experience in Burlington with spiked tax inc’s.

10:16 AM – 14 Nov 12

* Are we preparing for more download from province of services due to their financial condition at the Region of Halton?

10:14 AM – 14 Nov 12

* Reg Clr Meed Ward is concerned about the “party being over” for 0% increases. Inflation right now roughly 1.8% now.

10:08 AM – 14 Nov 12

* Reg Clr Colin Best asks questions re MPAC to ensure speed of new assessments. #MiltonON growth closer to 8% rather than 1.5% region wide.

10:07 AM – 14 Nov 12

* Region of #Halton continues to have a triple A credit rating

10:04 AM – 14 Nov 12

* 66% of $3.9 B in growth related infrastructure all funded by development charges #Halton

10:03 AM – 14 Nov 12

* Timing of project depends on allocation programs in 2013 and beyond. #Halton

10:02 AM – 14 Nov 12

* On the Capital side $3.9 B ten year program for transportation, waste management projects etc…#Halton

9:59 AM – 14 Nov 12

$584K for new waste diversion programs to increase life of the landfill which is “the most important asset of the region of #Halton

9:55 AM – 14 Nov 12

Rate impact for #Halton ends up being zero due to GTA pooling savings.

9:54 AM – 14 Nov 12

* Assessment growth is expected to be 1.5% (new prop)#Halton MPAC assessments have been done. If you’ve incr more than avg taxes might go up.

9:52 AM – 14 Nov 12

* Region of #Halton budget to be put online in packet format to help those who use tablets as well.

9:49 AM – 14 Nov 12

SO needless to say the next few weeks will be busy reading these documents, finding out where money is being spent and getting feedback from the public on both the Region of Halton and Town of Milton budgets.  From time to time here on my blog, I will be posting reports and some feedback I have about the budgets and I hope you take time to read them.

For those of you who are interested, there will be a budget “information session” at the Milton Sports Centre on Wednesday November 28th in Room #4 from 7pm to 9pm for you to be able to ask questions and give us feedback and your thoughts on the Milton and Region of Halton budgets for 2013.  Regional Councillor Colin Best, myself and hopefully some more of our council colleagues will be there.  Send me an email mike@mikecluett.ca if youre interested in attending.

AMO Update – Post Ottawa

Over the next couple of days, I will get a more detailed accounting of what Milton councillors did on our 3 day conference in Ottawa.  I promise 🙂

For those that don’t know, myself along with a number of Milton Councillors attended the annual Association of Municipalities of Ontario Conference in Ottawa.  This gives local elected officials an opportunity to meet, discuss ideas that are important to their constituents, attend workshops and seminars as well as network with provincial government officials as well.

Last year a number of councillors went to the conference in London Ontario to meet with the infrastructure minister as well as the provincial health minister to stress the importance of the expansion of Milton District Hospital.  At that point we were armed with over 6,000 plus fresh signatures from the Grow Milton Hospital campaign as well as the previous Friends of Milton Hospital’s 35,000 plus signed cards from residents to let them know the number one issue in our town was the hospital.

You’ll remember that shortly after that (and a looming provincial election in the coming weeks MIGHT have had a LITTLE something to do with the announcement /end sarcasm) we received word that the expansion was going to move forward.

This year there were a number of issues that face Milton as we continue to grow in leaps and bounds.  Unofficially our population ticker is over the 100,000 mark and headed even higher.  There is a lack of schools being committed in Milton, which is one of the main reasons that our Halton District School Board Trustee Donna Danielli attended the conference for this meeting.

We were originallytrying to meet with the Education Minister Laurel Broten, but given the high pressure of the teachers negotiations, she was nowhere to be found in Ottawa (same as the finance minister oddly enough 🙂 ) but we ended up with Deputy Education Minister instead.

The deputy minister knew of Milton’s needs well before we got there as we are one of many municipalities that are facing these school shortages.  Donna was our “point person” during this meeting as she faces these issues on a daily basis, hearing from residents about when new schools will be ready, why there are 30 portables in each location and when will it stop.  Milton council members don’t have jurisdiction in this at all.  I got emails from folks telling me that we shouldn’t be bothering since we have no control.

Its true.  We dont have an official say in this and our presence there was mainly symbolic.  But it did make a point to every minister we met that Milton meant business.  If you follow the news at all, you know there is a lot going on right now with the education ministry and the “negotiations” with school boards and teachers, which was probably the reason she didnt make it to the AMO conference.  I am confident that we will be hearing some good news soon regarding some of our much needed schools in Milton, after everything else is being dealt with.  So stay tuned for that news.

That wasn’t the only meeting myself and the other councillors attended in the 3 days.  There were a number of meetings with government ministers to discuss items like slot revenues, the horse racing industry and MPAC issues we are having. 

As outlined by Kim Arnott in the Milton Canadian Champion recently, we could be possibly facing an issue of property tax increases here in Milton and other areas due to MPAC being delayed in their reassessment of homes.  Here’s the article.

Assessment issues could impact Milton property taxes

A “hair-raising” property tax increase could be in the works for Milton as a result of assessment issues that are beyond the Town’s control.  A combination of delayed assessment updates and resolved assessment appeals could result in a property tax impact of as much as $2 million, or a six to seven per cent increase on local property taxes.When combined with education and regional taxes, the result could be an increase of two to three per cent on the combined tax bill that’s mailed to local residents.  

“It’s making the hair on the back of my neck stand up,” said Councillor Mike Cluett. “This is very important.”A report delivered to council last night by Milton treasurer Linda Leeds outlined the challenges for the coming year.  The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC), the provincial body responsible for assessing properties and assigning values for taxation purposes, will be conducting a province-wide reassessment next year.

Prior to the completion of that reassessment, an attempt is currently underway to resolve outstanding assessment appeals from prior years, with a focus on commercial and industrial properties.  However, that means that assessors are involved in hearings and not available to undertake assessments of new properties so they can be added to municipal tax rolls.

This is particularly problematic for rapidly-developing municipalities like Milton. The assessment and addition of new properties throughout the year — known as supplementary assessments — allows the Town to begin collecting taxes from those properties.  A delay in adding new properties to the municipal tax rolls means the Town needs to finance the expansion of services to accommodate new residents and business while it waits for the cash to come in.

In the 2012 budget, taxes from supplementary assessments were anticipated to be $2 million. However, so far this year MPAC has assessed only 116 of more than 800 new residential properties, for a total of only $77,413 in property taxes.

Staff is particularly concerned with the possibility that new commercial and industrial properties – which typically carry large tax bills – may not be assessed in a timely fashion.  The attempt to rapidly resolve outstanding assessment appeals could also impact on the town’s finances.

When property owners appeal their assessments, they are required to pay the full assessment until a decision is made on the appeal. If an appeal is successful, the Town issues a refund for taxes paid.   

As the 2012 budget was established prior to the announcement of the plan to try and resolve outstanding appeals, only $230,000 was budgeted for refunds arising from successful appeals.  However, with 94 individual non-residential properties in Milton combining for 591 appeals (some dating back to 2001), the town could easily be on the hook for refunds that far surpass the budgeted amount.While the town has no direct control over MPAC, councillors did pass a resolution to ask MPAC to undertake the necessary supplementary assessments, and resolved to bring the issue to the attention of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.

One of the seminar/workshops that AMO had this week was an update from MPAC by Chair of the Board Dan Mathieson and Antoni Wisniowski, the new CAO and the status of a number of things, and whats to come.  Needless to say it didn’t have a lot of answers to questions during the presentations, but they did do a Q&A with attendees afterwards.  As you would expect, Regional Councillor Colin Best was right up there for the questions and highlighted many of our concerns raised in that motion Milton council passed.

From what we were told at the conference, the slides and possibly video of some of these sessions might be available so if and when it does, I will post here on my site.

I will get into more detail soon regarding the different sessions myself and members of council did attend.  We were there en masse and we tried to spread ourselves out to maximize our numbers but there was still some overlap in some of the sessions.

If you have any questions or want some specific information on sessions I attended on behalf of the Town of Milton, either post a  comment or send me an email Mike@MikeCluett.ca

2013 Budget Call Report – Possible 5.1% Increase

Milton 5.1% tax hike predicted From Milton Canadian Champion, Kim Arnott

Milton property taxes could jump by as much as five per cent next year, as the Town grapples with issues that could put “unprecedented pressure” on both its capital and operating budgets.

Along with inflationary pressures of more than three per cent, a staff report suggests the 2013 operating budget could be impacted by a delay in moving new homes onto the assessment rolls.

Uncertainty around the capital budget is based on possible changes to slot revenues and a delay in receiving development charge money from the Region due to appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).

“In order to provide services at 2012 levels, staff are projecting a tax rate increase of 5.1 per cent in 2013,” said the report presented to councillors Monday.

Councillors directed staff to begin developing the budget, and outline options for tax increase scenarios ranging between one and five percent.  In response to the report, Mayor Gord Krantz said he’s speculating the tax increase will come in at five percent, but added, “I hope I’m proven wrong.”

Although inflation based on the consumer price index is forecast for about 2 per cent next year, a municipal price index, which weighs the costs of salaries, benefits, construction costs and items like asphalt, is predicted at 3.37 per cent.

Beyond that, staff are concerned that a province-wide assessment update taking place this year will delay the addition of newly-built homes to the assessment rolls.

While only temporary, that delay requires the Town to rely on its reserve funds to cover the cost of expanding services into new areas of the community until it begins receiving taxes from those properties.

“We are looking at some challenging times,” said Councillor Colin Best.  More significant is the uncertainty around the future of gaming at Mohawk Racetrack, following this spring’s announcement that the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation is planning changes to gambling centres across the province.

Since 1998, slot revenue has been used to help fund capital projects, with the current nine-year capital forecast relying on nearly $50 million in slot revenue for funding.

The Milton Community Fund, which aids local non-profit initiatives, is funded solely from slot revenues.

Just recently, the Town of Milton received more than $1.4 million from the OLG for hosting the Slots at Mohawk Racetrack/ The revenue was the Town’s first-quarter revenue payment.

“The uncertainty regarding the future of the slot revenues creates financial risk for both of these programs and alternative revenue sources may need to be explored including increasing taxes,” said the staff report.

Finally, projects within the capital budget that are to be funded through development charges could be delayed as a result of appeals to the OMB.

Staff will be working with limited public feedback as they develop the budget. Only 87 residents completed the online budget survey on the Town’s website, a decline from about 200 respondents last year.

Councillor Mike Cluett described the decline as “a disappointment,” adding, “We need to hear from taxpayers even more now than ever, due to all the pressures we are under.”

Most people who did respond to the survey said they are generally satisfied with current levels of Town service. Park maintenance was the only area where the majority people thought services should be increased.

Almost three-quarters of respondents (72 per cent) said they would support a property tax increase to maintain existing services, with the majority saying the rate of inflation would be an appropriate increase.

Councillors are expected to get their first look at the 2013 budget by November 26, with a decision by town council scheduled for December 17.

Saturday Transit Pilot Project On Hold…For Now

New bus routes on the way – But Saturday busing proposal rejected

 Two new bus routes are coming to Milton, but Saturday is still not on the schedule.

On Monday night, town councillors approved a series of recommendations establishing new parking regulations around the GO station and new bus routes in the Scott, Harrison and Willmott neighbourhoods.  However, they voted against a recommendation to test demand for Saturday bus service by running a 10-month pilot project.

The proposal — supported by Town staff and the Transit Advisory Committee — suggested using surplus transit funds of about $80,000 to offer Saturday bus service between 8:30 a.m. and 7 p.m.

The project was suggested to begin in September and run until early next summer, with buses operating on a schedule similar to weekday off-peak hours.

The idea was vigorously opposed by Councillor Rick Malboeuf, who noted that the $80,000 in surplus funds would only fund the project through the 2012 tax year, with an additional $120,000 required from the 2013 budget.  “There’s no major outcry among our residents for Saturday service,” he said, noting that the service would generate only about and estimated $400 a day, yet cost $5,200 a day.

Malboeuf added that councillors would be pressured to continue the service once it was established.  “Once you start something like this, it’s hard to back out. And it’s the first step to Sunday service.”

Other councillors appeared more sympathetic to the cause, but expressed concerns about timing and finances.  “My preference would be to hold off on this until we have the 2013 budget in front of us,” said Councillor Colin Best, who worried aloud about the Town’s financial fortunes in the coming year. “Let’s look at everything in its entirety.”

Councillor Mike Cluett added that it would seem sensible to complete the ongoing Transit Master Plan prior to making significant changes to the service.

The two new bus routes, which will begin running on September 4, will service the residential neighbourhoods south of Derry Road and west of Hwy. 25.

During last year’s budget deliberations, councillors agreed to purchase three new buses and add three additional routes through southwest Milton. However, slower than expected growth in the area meant that only two additional routes were needed, explained Paul Cripps, director of engineering services.  The $80,000 surplus in transit funding is a result of the third new route not being added at this time.

Councillors also approved a number of new parking restrictions around the GO station, which are required to accommodate the additional bus routes now running to the facility.