Council approves 2024 budget with a 4.5 per cent tax increase
After a long and difficult budget deliberation that began almost six weeks ago, Kawartha Lakes council unanimously approved a budget that will see taxpayers pay almost three per cent more, plus an additional 1.5 per cent capital levy, to help fund city operations and programming. Councillors at the same Dec. 5 meeting approved a separate three per cent increase in the cost of municipal water and sewage treatment.
“I believe we have done a great job,” said Mayor Doug Elmslie. “When we started this process, I didn’t think we had a shot at getting anywhere near three per cent. We have done a real service for the citizens of Kawartha Lakes. We wish the increase could be zero, or less. Everyone involved, I congratulate you for your time and patience.”
Sarah Beukeboom, director of corporate services, told council that when the budgeting process began in the early fall the city needed to reduce $16 million in expenditures to come in at the three per cent increase talked about in the Long -Term Financial Plan. The director said that without cuts tax payers could have been looking at a 4.6 per cent increase plus the 1.5 percent capital levy. After cuts were made to the capital budget last week, the proposed tax increase had been reduced to close to four per cent plus the 1.5 percent capital levy.
Today’s discussions focused on the tax supported operating budget, the special projects budget, and the water and wastewater budget with the goal of finding “further refinements” that would allow for a possible tax increase of three per cent plus the 1.5 percent capital levy.
Council found savings of even more than what Beukeboom and the mayor were looking for, chopping $2.2 million from the operating budget, $113,000 from the special projects budget and $625,000 from the water and wastewater budget by either cancelling or postponing a number of city initiatives.
Beukeboom said the tax increase will equate to about $108 a year more for a homeowner in Lindsay and about $85 a year more for someone living in a rural area. The three per cent increase in water and sewage costs will equate to an increase of $40-50 a year for those hooked up to one of the city’s water treatment systems.
Beukeboom told council that this budget positioned the city for growth readiness, put them in a position to recruit and retain staff, helped build their financial reserves, and reduce reliance on debt to repair capital needs.