Council recently approved the Town’s 2018 Capital and Operating Budgets. The new budget translates into an increase of approximately 3.5% (or about $55) on the Pelham portion of your property tax bill for the average residential property (assessed at $328,138).
Since Pelham’s portion of your property taxes represents roughly 38% of your overall residential tax, we approximate that the Town will receive $1,610 of the $4,200 for the average residential property tax bill; the Niagara Region will receive 48% of the total amount (approximately $2,015) and the Province (to fund education) the remaining 14% (approximately $575).
We expect the blended property tax increase to range from 2.0% to 2.3% -- depending on Regional tax policy considerations later this spring. With this type of blended increase, it will mean that Pelham’s blended tax increases continue to keep pace with inflation over the last 12 years. And, the Town continues to compare very favorably to other Niagara Cities and Towns by increasing less than the average of others.
In preparing the budgets, Council directed Staff to review all expenditures against customer service needs and the Town’s strategic plan.
Obviously the big project for this year will be completing and opening the new Pelham Community Centre. We received a great update from the Oversight Committee on February 5 – that the new Centre is on-time and on-budget. On-time means “substantially complete” in June; on-budget means within the $36.2 million budget after 97% of the project has been tendered.
It made sense, therefore, that Council spent a lot of time discussing the plans for staffing, running, and opening the new Centre. During our deliberations, Staff outlined the flexible staffing model – having a number of part-time employees available to meet the community’s demand as required – for the successful operation of the Centre. This approach will not only allow for a “scalable response” to meet the community’s demand, it will also allow the Town to gauge and re-evaluate the staffing requirements after the Centre’s first six months of operation.
Other Council discussions included maintaining the excellent level of service for sidewalk snow clearing, working to improve Pelham Transit by trying to link to West Lincoln and Wainfleet and attain additional Provincial funding, and slightly increasing the grant to the Pelham Public Library. Council also ensured that we set aside funds to fight the expected Gypsy Moth infestation. And, just like small business, the Town was impacted by the increase in the minimum wage; we expect to pay $21,850 more in 2018 for these wage costs.
The capital budget will continue to improve and fund infrastructure and other important capital items in 2018.
For instance, not only are we continuing to replace fire fighter bunker gear, we are also funding new radio equipment to help expedite the transition to a new and improved regional communications system. We also look forward to partnering with the Fabulous Fenwick Lions to help fund their new concession canopy. We funded the repairing of some of playground turf and equipment. And, after designating the former Quaker Meeting House / Model Railroad building in Fenwick as an historic structure, we also earmarked some funds to help repair the heritage windows.
We also included funds to design and build two new parks in the Lookout / Haist Street North area. We look forward to working together with local residents on the design of these new neighbourhood parks this year.
The roads budget includes a number of important initiatives like road rehabilitation of Pancake from Effingham to Blackwood, and of Welland Road from Pelham Street to Milburn; maintaining a strong road-side ditching program; repairing / maintaining some storm-ponds (like on Station Street and for the Timber Creek neighbourhood); and funding the study and design of a solution for the erosion on Sulphur Springs Drive.
On the water and wastewater side, we approved funding for upgrading the existing sewer capacity along Foss Road (near Church Street), extending water and sewers to Rice Road (north of Regional Road 20), and planning for a water backflow prevention program.
Finally, other increases include utility costs, staffing and benefit costs, and contracted services so we can maintain expected service levels.
As a result of these and other initiatives, Council approved a net budget increase of $412,737 on a $12,530,619 net budget.
I plan to write more about your total property tax impact and compare with previous years after Regional Council approves the 2018 rates and ratios later this spring.
You may contact Mayor Dave at email@example.com or read past columns and link to documents at www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca.