Espanola council passed the municipal budget on Tuesday, May 14th showing a slight increase in taxation for ratepayers.

The document took several months to complete for a few reasons, one being a new council that wanted to review the budget line by line, the changeover from municipal to provincial police and Doug Ford’s first provincial budget and how the downloading and loss of revenues/grant programs would affect monetary items at the local level.

Espanola’s CAO, Cynthia Townsend, provided the document including the executive summary highlighting the budget, which is actually a living document, which allows forecasting for a three year period.

The budget reflects and overall net levy of $7, 671,232, a slight increase over 2018 of $92,494 or 1.22%. She says it should be noted that expenditures decreased over the prior year; however in 2018 an amount totaling $354,948 was pulled from reserves to eliminate any tax increase last year.

As a result of assessment growth and a decrease to the provincial education rate, the average residential household with an assessment of $142,831 will see an increase of only 0.72%, an increase of around $17.41.

Townsend adds the budget reflects a number of significant projects and challenges.

The town has had a further reduction of $37,600 in grants from the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund.

Municipal efficiency and modernization funding was also received, $637,000, which has been placed in a special reserve and can be drawn upon by council if they deem a local project is worthy of financial support.

Police services are still a bit of an unknown. The transition period is still underway from municipal to provincial policing and the current year expenditures reflect some savings with the majority of savings expected in 2022 when the transition is complete.

When it comes to hard services, work is being carried out now and there could be some other projects down the pipe.

Gran applications for a portion of the Connecting Link – Highway 6 and replacement of the main water trunk line from Mead Blvd to the water treatment to the Queensway are currently being submitted to the upper levels of government for consideration. The projects are contingent on approval and receiving the funding from the provincial and federal government. If those approvals fall in place, the actual work is unlikely to begin this year, but will be carried out in 2020.

The new fire hall is expected to be completed by May 31st.
She adds the budget reflects a number of significant projects including remediation of Highway Six – Centre Street that is now underway, as well as on Jean, Katherine and Elizabeth Streets.

Another capital project will include improvements to the Heritage Park and a new welcome sign.

Townsend explained the budget is prepared based on a three-year period, which provides a projection of what future rate increases might be. Although the Municipal Act allows for a multi-year budget, it also requires that the budget for subsequent years are reviewed and re-adopted each of year of the budget. Therefore, the 2020 and 2021 budget estimates will change depending on the circumstances in each of those years.