By Kevin Johnson & Daina Makinson
Puslinch Township appears to be on the verge of regressing back to the days of unfettered tax increases. During the last municipal election it seemed like every candidate clearly stated they would be fiscally prudent managers of our money if elected, ensuring Puslinch would be an affordable place to live going forward. However, once elected…
To be fair, from their voting records, it would seem that at least two of our five elected council members seem to be working towards that goal. Unfortunately, it takes three councillors to win a vote.
Tax levy increase currently at 8%As of the last budget meeting on November 25th Puslinch Township will be increasing its tax levy by just over 8% unless we, as taxpayers, do something about it (see the article here).
It is not, however, too late to affect change within our township – there is a public meeting being held on January 21st at 7pm at the township council chambers. Hopefully enough people will attend that we can persuade council to cut their spending. If you cannot attend, you can either call or email your concerns to our councillors before this meeting. (links to all councillor’s email addresses and phone numbers will be included near the end of this article).
After reviewing the proposed 2016 budget documents, we’ve decided to print a few of the larger discretionary capital spending items it includes for your information. These are all one time charges and do not include ongoing, regular expenses.
Obviously not everyone will agree on where to spend our money (after all it is OUR money) but we feel it is important that everyone has some idea of why their tax bills will be so high in the coming years if nothing is done. We have not included any road maintenance or construction as we trust our roads supervisor to determine our needs and roads are a must-have, core service.
Keep in mind when reading the following that according to Puslinch budget documents, every $33,000 of additional spending will increase your Puslinch taxes by 1% (by extension, every $33,000 NOT spent will reduce your Puslinch taxes by 1%).
“Quint” Truck for Fire & Rescue
This, by far, is the most contentious of the spends and caused the most discussion at the council meetings. There was a lot of discussion as to whether or not Puslinch actually needs a large ladder truck when surrounding municipalities will respond with this equipment if needed and not many fires in Puslinch require a large ladder truck. The cost specified is as of the budget meeting in November, and we can only assume the price has gone up since we need to pay in US$ and the Canadian dollar has fallen farther since that meeting.
The US/CDN dollar value was a large part of the discussion by some councillors who felt now was not the time to be buying anything in US dollars that is not absolutely necessary. This is also a used truck that will come without any warranty.
It is also worth noting that there are three other absolutely necessary pieces of fire equipment that will need purchasing over the next decade that total $880,000 in projected capital costs (a pickup truck, the rescue truck and the pumper truck).
(UPDATE: From the January 6th meeting of council it appears that the fire department may now be looking at a 15 year old used truck that is for sale for $164,000. We are unsure at this time whether the cheaper option will be pursued by the Puslinch Fire Department but this in no way impacts the discussion of whether or not this is a needed piece of equipment. At the November budget meeting 3 of 5 councillors voted to keep the full $505,000 in the 2016 budget.)
Badenoch Community Centre upgrades/repairs
Over the next six years the current budget forecasts spending $395,000 on capital projects at the Badenoch Community Centre including washroom upgrades, new furnace, new windows and doors and wall repairs. This money will all be spent on a one room building serving East Puslinch without any comparable services in West Puslinch.
Shoulder Paving & Line Painting for Cyclists
Although not yet officially included in the proposed budget this has been brought up for discussion on multiple occasions at council by one councillor and has been included in budget discussion documents for 2016. If this were to be acted on it would be a further increase to the tax rate.
The cost to pave the shoulders for bikes has not been specified but we can safely assume it would be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions. The cost to paint side lines for cyclists has been mentioned to be in the $250/km range and this would be an ANNUAL cost with the lines needing repainting every year.
Zoning By-law Review
Staff are proposing to develop a new comprehensive Zoning By-law
with the goal of creating a single and progressive regulatory document which appropriately implements Provincial, Regional and Local policies. The cost estimated of $80,000 is based on comparator municipalities who have undergone a Comprehensive Zoning By-law review by retaining an
Traffic Calming in Morriston
Continuation of the multi-year “traffic calming” project in Morriston which sees gardens and trees planted along highway 6. $33,000 is planned for 2016 with another $33,000 in 2017.
Destination Marketing/Branding (LOGO)
“Utilizing Township-wide signage to easily identify municipal assets and branding (logo, tag line,
etc.) and to provide consistent messaging.” It would seem this money is being allocated to develop a new logo and erect signage.
Satellite Fire Station
Building a new Satellite fire station in West Puslinch. This is by no means a done deal but the budget document does include these capital cost estimates which indicates they are still being considered.
If the 8% projected tax levy increase isn’t bad enough, it’s worth noting that this budget includes NO contributions to reserve funds at all. It is simply a tax, spend and drain the accounts budget. For further information on these and all other proposed expenditures download the full proposed budget by clicking here. We would strongly encourage you to look at this document. In the coming years there are MANY more high value items in the budget such as the half million dollars for new lights on the baseball diamonds and possible plans for new soccer fields, splash pads and trails.
Can seniors afford to stay in Puslinch?According to the Puslinch Recreation Master Plan the Township’s median age is “the highest median age in Wellington County. The Township’s median age is also substantially higher compared to the Provincial median (40.4 years)”. It also states that “Most notable is the dramatic increase projected in the 70+ age group – an increase of 105% by 2031, despite only a 14% increase across all ages.”
Since Puslinch has a larger than average number of seniors living here we have to ask ourselves: “How will our senior citizens, on fixed incomes, absorb almost double digit tax increases into their budget?” What about the compounded long term effect of big increases on our already large tax bills every year? How long will it be before our seniors are driven out of the Township because of an inability to afford their property tax bill? We need to look out for our senior citizens and say NO to high tax increases. If you are living on a fixed income or have family who are, it’s simply time to stand up and SAY NO.
What about our young families?We’ve heard from young people that they simply can’t afford to live here. Even the children whose families stretch back generations in Puslinch will soon have to move out of our Township. How will our community thrive and survive when the only people who can afford to live here are the affluent? Do you really want to see Puslinch morph solely into a retirement community for the rich?
Public Meeting, January 21stYou are invited to attend the public meeting being held to discuss this tax increase on January 21st at 7pm at the Puslinch Township Council Chambers, 7404 Wellington Rd 34. This will be your LAST chance to challenge the need for extravagant spending and higher taxes in our community.
If you cannot attend the meeting, please email or telephone your councillors and let them know what you think. Talk to your neighbours and friends and make sure they know about the meeting. Click on the following links to contact your councillors:
- Councillor Wayne Stokley
- Councillor Matthew Bulmer
- Councillor Susan Fielding
- Councillor Ken Roth
- Mayor Dennis Lever
Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to address the high cost of living here without full services by asking Council to find ways to REDUCE our property taxes (a novel idea!). It just doesn’t make sense that they are as high as they already are.
As stated in a previous article:
“When discussing our vision of Puslinch and what the Township provides taxpayers we need to keep in mind that everything has a cost. Absolutely nothing is free. Maybe we need, as a community, to decide what we can and can’t provide in the way of services in our small township that are over and above what most people would consider ‘Core Services’. Perhaps living in a predominantly rural community without garbage pickup, without all roads being paved, without water and sewer and gas services means an expectation of a simpler life – with tax rates that reflect that reality.”We hope to see you at the meeting on January 21st.