Georgian Bluffs ratepayers will see a combined tax rate increase of 1.8% this year.
Council passed its 2013 budget last week, which sees a 2.95% budget increase for municipal purposes. With education and county levies factored in, the total increase over last year falls below 2%.
A home assessed at $100,000 will pay $1,074.15 in taxes, up from the $1,055.66 it paid last year.
“We're pretty proud to still offer all the services that we have in the past, and still be able to come in with a tax rate of that nature,” said Mayor Alan Barfoot.
Municipal staff has drawn up a spreadsheet comparing taxes for waterfront homes in Georgian Bluffs, Saugeen Shores, Meaford, Owen Sound and South Bruce Peninsula.
“This was to compare waterfront property,” said Barfoot. “There's been a concern brought forward that with the reassessment of waterfront property, are they basically being taxed out of line?”
The answer is no, after looking at other municipalities.
Last year, a home assessed at $400,000 in Georgian Blufs paid $4,222.62 in property taxes. That same home in Owen Sound paid $6,073.24, in Meaford it paid $5,433.68, in South Bruce Peninsula it paid $4,623.40, and in Saugeen Shores it paid $4, 241.56.
In Grey-Bruce, Georgian Bluffs has the third lowest percentage of taxes that are kept for its own purpose.
The township has an annual budget of about $6.5 million. This year, it was able to set aside more than $200,000 in reserves, something it hasn't been able to do much of recently.
Council set aside $150,000 for an equipment reserve fund. Another $50,000 was set aside for adding onto the administration building at a later date, and $25,000 was put into a computer reserve fund. As well, more than $13,000 was set aside for a council chamber sound system.
“We've taken the position that you need to have an increase every year to be able to keep up to the times,” said Barfoot, adding that trying to bring in a budget with no increase means it's “almost impossible to catch up” later.
“The province is mandating with the new capital asset management plan, they're saying if you don't have substantial amount of money in each reserve for roads, for water systems, and the likes of that, then there will be no grants for municipalities down the road,” Barfoot said. “It's a tough decision at budget time. You've got to put money into the reserves, you've also got to spend money to keep up with modern technology. I compliment council and staff for their wisdom of thinking into the future of where we need to go, and for the support all have given us through this whole process.”
As is often the case each year, Georgian Bluffs faces increases in costs it has no control over. Insurance is up 5%, the conservation authority budget is up 3% and council is on the hook each year for $55,000 toward the new Family Y at the regional recreation centre in Owen Sound for 15 years. As well, the annual Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund is down 10%, or about $86,000, this year. Treasurer Holly Morrison said these factors alone were responsible for a 1% increase in the overall budget.
Overall, Barfoot said he's happy with the budget.
“At the end of the day, it's pretty hard to keep everybody happy, but we're under the opinion that we've satisfied the needs, and we don't have to cut any services going forward.”