By: Laura Steiner
Milton’s Municipal Budget comes up for discussion for a third time in as many months at Monday’s Council meeting. Round 2 ended with a decision to send the budget back to staff for more consideration. At issue is how to keep taxes to the 3% level as requested at January’s meeting.
Staff came up with a report in which they listed off a series of proposals indicating a time of low taxes might be at an end. They affect both service delivery with a series of deferrals, service level decreases, and a potential future financial risk for the Town. At the very top is a deferral of the Sherwood Branch Library opening to 2020, which would decrease a tax levy by $296,302, and the construction of a Ford Neighbourhood Park to 2020, saving $52,013.
A proposal to eliminate an annual transfer to the Winter Control Reserve (money kept back to help deal with a major winter snow storm) would decrease the levy by $139,517. But it would also leave the Town in a mess if suddenly we get a major snow storm next winter. Snow clearing is at the top of many residents’ complaints.
I know you’re thinking “more houses should equal increased revenue base, we shouldn’t need a tax increase.” That is part of the problem. Residential growth is increasing faster than business growth. The lack of business growth shifts a larger amount of the tax burden onto homeowners.
This year it’s a choice between keeping taxes low, and doing without a branch library, a new park or not having enough resources to deal with a snow storm. Next year low taxes might mean putting off a road repair, or watermain upgrade. Low taxes are good, but at what cost? Council faces difficult choices tonight.