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Town to pass budget in April

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Most taxpayers in Fort Frances will be paying more this year although some will see their taxes go down.

The 2012 budget was explained at Monday night’s council meeting.

Tax levy increases are as follows:

  • Residential—2.49 percent;
  • Multi-residential—2.69 percent;
  • Commercial—1.02 percent;
  • Industrial—1.1 percent;
  • Large industrial—1.23 percent;
  • Pipeline—2.165 percent; and
  • Farmland—2.49 percent.

Most property owners’ assessment values have been going up in recent years, as determined by the Municipal Property Assessment Corp.

This means property owners in each of these classes will see an increase on their tax bills.

However, due to a decrease in the education tax rate, some property owners may see an increase in levy but a decrease in the amount of dollars paid.

For example, a total of 2,835 residential property owners will see their tax bill go up an average of $53 while 247 will see their tax bill go down by $5.

All 18 multi-residential properties will go up an average of $722.

A total of 89 commercial (occupied) property owners will see their taxes go up an average of $879 while 213 will see their taxes go down an average of $179.

Nine commercial (vacant) property owners’ tax bills will go up an average of $277 while 31 will see them go down $30.

A total of nine industrial (occupied) property owners will see their tax bills increase by an average of $56 while 13 will see them decrease by $15.

A dozen industrial (vacant) property owners will pay $5 more while 15 will pay $2 less.

One large industrial—the Resolute mill—will pay $9,212 more.

One pipeline property owner will pay $576 more while the other will pay $1,636 more.

Both farmland property owners will see their taxes go up $2.

Town treasurer Laurie Witherspoon explained the entire budget Monday evening, outlining how tax dollars are applied, revenues and expenditures, reserves, and other details.

The 2012 budget is balanced at $21,640,492. This includes no new long-term debt as all capital projects will be financed by way of grants and reserve funds.

The town has more than $10.6 million in its reserve funds. The majority of this—$5.757 million—is dedicated to water and sewer.

A copy of the 2012 budget presentation is available online at fort-frances.com

A limited number of printed copies also are available at the front desk at the Civic Centre.

Budget delay

Council, however, will not vote to pass the budget until sometime next month.

While the budget will not change from what was presented Monday evening, several details have to be addressed first.

“We did not put forward the adoption of budget bylaw [Monday] night as an Ontario Regulation 284/09 Budget Matters report has to be reported to and passed by council first,” Witherspoon explained yesterday in an e-mail to the Times.

“The Ontario Regulation reports on whether or not amortization, post-employment benefits, and solid waste landfill closure and post-closure expenses have been included in the budget and to explain the impact on the 2012 budget had these expenses been included in the budget,” she noted.

The town is waiting for Toronto-based Morneau Shepell to provide an actuary report on firefighter retiree benefits in order to complete the Ontario Regulation report.

On Feb. 4, 2011, the Provincial Board of Arbitration awarded Fort Frances firefighters salary increases for 2009-12, along with recognition pay and retiree benefits.

The retiree benefits require that the town pay 100 percent of the cost of a retired firefighters’ benefits, except for life, AD&AD, and deluxe travel, up to a maximum age of 65 or until provided by government plan, whichever occurs sooner, provided that the member is eligible for pension benefits under OMERS requirements and is within 10 years of the normal retirement date.

In a separate report received by council Monday, Witherspoon explained the retiree benefits cost will affect the town’s 2011 year-end surplus/deficit as the entire liability will have to be set up for Dec. 31, 2011—even though there were no retirees in 2011.

She said she consulted BDO Canada here, which estimated the impact could range anywhere from $130,000-$530,000.

But BDO also advised the town to contact Morneau Shepell to provide an actuary report that will use estimates and probability factors to calculate post-retirement liability.

Morneau Shepell has been contacted, and will prepare an actuary report the town should receive by mid-April.

The town also is waiting for finalized education rates before passing the budget.

“The budget for municipal will not change but as the education rates are still only preliminary, there is a potential for change with regard to the education tax revenue and education tax payable to school boards,” Witherspoon noted.

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