08 Feb Budget deliberations finalized in Stratford: City holding at 7.73 per cent tax increase
By Amanda Modaragamage
Stratford’s finance and labour relations committee has finalized a 2024 draft budget for the city that will be presented for final approval at the next council meeting with a 7.73 per-cent increase to the tax rate.
The tax rate is based on a 9.93 per-cent increase to the tax levy.
Stratford treasurer and director of corporate services Karmen Krueger says owners of a home valued at $350,000 can expect to pay $404.64 more in property taxes this year, which works out to be just under $34 per month.
Councillors proposed six cuts in services including deferring $150,000 in post-closure landfill contributions; deferring a $50,000 contribution to post-employment liability; reducing transfers to reserves by $65,000 based on current balances and timing of capital (fire); reducing transfers to reserves by $75,000 based on current balances and timing of capital (cemetery); deferring the $30,000 Lions Pool accessible parking project; and reducing the amount the city was going to pay to make online documents accessible by $6,000.
Stratford Mayor Martin Ritsma also proposed a motion to use $250,000 from the tax-levy stabilization reserve fund to decrease the burden on taxpayers, which was passed unanimously.
Though approved by the committee, some councillors raised concerns regarding the increase in the tax levy, including Coun. Bonnie Henderson, noting she supports the budget but was torn based on concerns she heard from residents about rising costs.
Henderson also introduced a motion to send letters to the Ontario government to request recognition of the hardships these tax increases have on citizens, to which all councillors and Ritsma agreed.
“We’re starting to see a provincial government saying, ‘Yes, we recognize municipalities big and small need support,’ “ noted Ritsma. “I’d certainly be delighted to champion this motion to move it forward.”
“We know across the board that we need to present a fulsome picture of the impact on our citizens,” said Coun. Taylor Briscoe. “It’s our job to advocate for our most vulnerable citizens, so perhaps send a letter to capture those concerns, but through the cost-of-living lens, is a good idea.”
The draft budget passed with only Coun. Cody Sebben and Ritsma opposed.
“I think with this increase, we’re really pushing those on fixed income, families and everybody else,” said Sebben.
The final draft budget will be presented at the next council meeting in February.