By: Laura Steiner
Milton Council has rejected the 2019 municipal budget. The unanimous verdict came following a 2.5 hour meeting to consider the matter. They struggled with how to balance service levels with keeping taxes low.
Discussions included a possible 8.74% increase, which, was quickly rejected. A 3% increase in taxes was also declined, as it would have resulted in $3.37 million cuts in order to reduce the rate. “I think we’re abdicating part of our responsibility,” Ward 3 Councillor Rick Di Lorenzo said of the stalemate. Councillors were given decision packages containing recommendations on where to cut. These included items such as support for the Downtown Milton Street Festival, and cutting library hours. Both ideas were turned down.
The meeting ended with the motion to reject the budget. Council instructed staff to return to council with an increase of 3.82% when blended with the Regional rate, and education fees. This converts to 6% on property taxes, or $15.43/ $100,000 on assessment. Town Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Bill Mann stressed that staff tried to take politics out of the decision packages. “We’ve spent a lot of time trying to find apolitical options,” he said.
Some councillors argue that one of the issues is staffing levels, where some admit the majority of the money is spent. “This is not a reflection on staff,” Ward 2 Regional Councillor Rick Malboeuf said. He also suggested looking at how transit is delivered. “If we find other cuts, we’ll make them, Malboeuf said.
The budget will return for Council’s consideration at a special meeting February 4, 2019. Their next meeting will be January 21, which will deal with a core services review; looking at how the Town can best deliver services.