Peterborough County #2 Draft Budget Proposes 2.23% Increase

Property tax bills in Cavan-Monaghan include allocation to three service providers: the municipality, Peterborough County and the Ministry of Education.

Each of them determine their funding requirements based on their own operations, legislative requirements and ratepayer expectations.  Of the 2020 property tax receipts paid to Cavan-Monaghan, 58% were retained for municipal expenditures, Peterborough County received 29% and the remaining 13% was directed to the province for public education.

Peterborough County is the upper tier of municipal authority which includes eight municipalities which allows their members to gain economies of scale in their purchase and management of a variety of services for the region.  Some of these include the promotion of regional economic development, enhancing tourism, managing land use planning & development, transportation systems, solid waste management, social services and emergency medical services including ambulance.

The 2021 County budget deliberations began with a slight reprieve from the operating side.  While the pandemic has had a significant impact on County operations, one-time funding received from the Provincial and Federal Governments to address this COVID emergency along with operational changes and reduced programing was enough to offset most of its impact. In addition, the planned downloading of a larger portion of the public health budget by the province has been delayed, offering a slight but potentially temporary relief. The main pressure stems from infrastructure.

The 2.23% proposed property tax increase is lower than it could have been; in fact, it is less than the 2.5% dedicated levy for infrastructure. This levy was approved in 2019 to continue for eight years to address a growing infrastructure deficit as funds being set aside were falling behind the amount needed to sustain County infrastructure.  Projections at that time suggested the deficit between the funding required to maintain the assets and the rate of savings to pay for them would grow to $84.5 million by 2028.   The dedicated levy was expected to provide almost $10 million in additional funding to shrink the funding gap over the nine years for which it was approved.  All municipalities are working towards a July 2024 deadline for an asset management plan for all municipal infrastructure assets outlining funding plans to maintain service levels.

What are these assets that need replacing?  Most of them are County roads, which account for 76.5% of the assets, followed by bridges (13.7%), then culverts at 4% and facilities such as transfer stations, the Court House and Victoria Park, sometimes referred to as tent city during warmer months.

In the draft 2021 budget, this levy totals $1,163,764, of which $932K is planned for road and bridge projects, 209K for culverts and 22.5K for facilities.

Sixty percent of County Expenditures are funded by property taxes, with the remainder offset through provincial and federal government transfers, a variety of fees, development charges and the use of reserves.

What can be done to reduce the pressure on our tax bills?  Growth could help, allowing the expenses to be shared by more taxpayers.  We should also manage our expectations and our priorities.  When spending public money, we must think like citizens and not consumers.  Which expenditures make our region better for all?  KG

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