Milton’s 2016 Budget: Conversations Missed, Taxes Hiked

By: Laura Steiner

Milton Council has passed its 2016 operating budget with a big change.  Council combined its urban, and rural tax rates.  The total hike is: $12.30/ $100,000 or 5.04%.  Rural residents view this as unfair because they don’t have access to the same services.  They have no sidewalks, and no transit, but are stuck paying for both anyway.

Council also cut $64,000 from the marketing and communications budget for Transit.  There are deeper issues with Milton Transit than its communications.  There’s been an ongoing argument over ridership numbers dating back to August, 2014.  The previous Council denied a motion asking for an audit.  Marketing won’t solve that problem.  It would probably be worth putting this money towards an audit, and revisiting that conversation.

Ward 8 Councillor Zeeshan Hamid chaired the budget committee
Ward 8 Councillor Zeeshan Hamid chaired the budget committee

The other cut that causes conversation is $23,000 for additional library hours at the Main Branch.  The money would’ve paid for the library to be open later Monday hours.  As the town has grown, and the branches have multiplied the hours haven’t.  To borrow a question from social media: Why bother to expand the library system when they won’t be open the hours we need them to?  A town this size should have at least one library branch open 12 hours/day 6 days/ week.   Why not look at using volunteers for a few extra hours/ week?

There’s also the hospital levy.  It was introduced in 2010. It’s listed separately on the property tax bill at 1% dedicated to helping fund the local share of the hospital expansion.  Now the bills are going to come due, and how will the rest be financed? Not by increasing the levy.  Instead they’re planning on issuing debentures or borrowing against future debt.  It’s good when the rates are low, but bad if they start creeping back up again.  Politicians never want to raise taxes and taxpayers certainly don’t want to pay more.  But with the population growth since 2010, it’s worth talking about raising the levy a little bit if only to head off the potential increase in interest rates.

We’ve entered a new year since this process started.  Council has a new chance to revisit some of these issues, and have some of these conversations.  I hope they do.