It took just over 90 minutes, including 20 in closed session, for Council to find the $234,000 in cuts it was looking for Monday, as it put the finishing touches on the 2012-13 budget.
The budget will ask Atikokan ratepayers to dig a little deeper: it is based on a tax increase of 4%, or about $59 for the average property owner.
Property taxes will total about $5.36 million, a $100,000 increase from a year ago. Because the total assessed value of Atikokan properties decreased in 2011 (mostly due to industrial property class changes from operating to vacant), the Town needed to raise taxes 1.35% this year just to raise the same amount as a year ago.
The biggest single cut in Monday’s budget session was the final one: the road renewal fund was cut another $135,000, leaving $165,000 for future road renewal projects. That money could go toward the Willow Rd. rebuild (being planned for 2013 or 2014, if matching funding can be secured), or towards a ‘quick fix’ road rehabilitation project Council and town officials are investigating.
“$300,000 or $165,000 – either way it’s not enough to do the Willow Road project,” said Public Works director Peter Burbeck. “But it is a commitment to the long-term renewal of our infrastructure.”
Council also decided to cut $31,000 in funding for the after-school program for elementary (grades 1-6) students, which the Town has run with provincial support for the past two years. That means the program will go ahead only if the province renews its support.
“We have applied, but have no word yet on funding for 2012-13,” said Nicole Halasz, manager of community services. She said the province has indicated 2012-13 would be the last year it would fund the program.
“Dropping it will affect a lot of low-income families; that’s our target group,” she said.
The clinic elevator project was the subject of more cuts. The Town has $99,000 in reserves for the elevator and had started the budget with another $200,000 earmarked for it. But the project will be a good deal more expensive than originally anticipated, and by mid-May it was apparent it was not likely to go ahead this year. That made it a target for the first two rounds of cuts, and the final $30,000 was eliminated Monday.
The final big cut ($30,000) was to the budget line for demolitions. With the Steep Rock Inn project nearing completion, and the appearance of a low cost or no cost option for the Caland truck shop demolition, chief building official Garth Dick said that $20,000 would be enough for 2012.
Smaller cuts included $5,000 from the Library levy (it will be asked to pay for a building condition assessment from its capital reserves), $3,000 for a new event tent (the Town has applied for a Local Initiatives Program grant for a tent, so this may yet go ahead), and $200 for nuisance wild animal control.
Council also restored $25,000 it had cut at the May 22 meeting for work at the sewage treatment plant. The plant is undergoing a major maintenance program right now, as the start of a million dollar upgrade that will take place over the next 2½ years. The extra money this year will serve as a contingency fund for needed work that might not qualify for the upgrade. The province has committed $700,000 to the upgrade.