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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex Council passes 3.91% tax increase in principle

by Sylene Argent

Council for the Town of Essex passed an average 3.91 percent tax increase (including County and School Board levies) for 2023 in principle.

The decision was made at the Budget Deliberation meeting on Monday, meant to allow Council the opportunity to debate and set priorities for this year’s Operating and Capital Budgets.

That means, on a median house in Essex, this would be an average annual increase of just under $117 per average household valued at $189,000 (via MPAC records).

This was slightly lower than the 4.12 percent increase presented during the 2023 Budget Walkthrough hosted on January 18.

Administration proposed a 2023 Budget with revenues and expenses totalling $68.5M; of which $21M would come from taxation. In addition, internal transfers totaled $16M (monies coming out of reserve), $14M in user fees, $10M in grants, $4M in contributions from developers, over $1M in licensing, penalties, and fees, and nearly $1M in investments and other income.

The proposed 2023 Budget includes $55M in total operating revenue. Nearly 40 percent of taxation is what funds the Operating Budget. Salaries account for nearly 25 percent of the Town’s Operating Budget.

The Town also proposed a Capital Budget of $13.1M.

Kate Giurissevich, Director of Corporate Services/Treasurer, noted the Budget designated 1.8 percent to a roads levy. She added around two percent of growth was incorporated into the 2023 Budget to offset additional expenses.

She explained when there is a large-scale development, the Town does not realize the tax revenue from it immediately. It can take three-years from the time a building permit is issued to when there is taxation revenue.

Adjusting for inflation, she said, was one of the biggest hurdles in putting together this year’s Budget. In addition, it was completed by incorporating the Strategic Plan and ways to find alternative revenue streams to keep the tax increase stable.

CAO Doug Sweet this was the hardest budget to put together in his career, due to the inflationary costs.

Council approved the 2023 proposed Operating Budget in principle. This includes four fulltime positions – a horticulture operator to assist with growing needs, a junior planner as the current contract position will end, and splitting the existing Executive Assistant for HR/Office of the CAO into two positions, which will also assist with communications. In addition, it includes a fulltime Water Operator, which was preapproved.

It also includes a $50,000 increase in Council remuneration.

Councillor Jason Matyi expressed concern over the increase to Council remuneration.

Giurissevich explained Essex’s Council pay is significantly lower than other municipalities. An increase will help in attracting diverse candidates as a lot of time gets put into a Council position.

Council also approved the proposed 2023 Capital Budget in principle.

In looking at ways to reduce the originally proposed tax increase, Council moved to cut in half the $50,000 in the Council Contingency Fund – used to support unexpected projects that come up throughout the year. It also removed the virtual meeting room hardware for Harrow that was posted for $27,000.

Council was also able to fund $18,000 of the $30,000 needed for the CWATS feasibility study for Maidstone Avenue through recently announced OCIF grant monies received, instead of through taxation.

In addition, upgrades needed for the Colchester Community Centre were reduced by $55,393, as the project came in lower than expected, for a total cost of $160,000.

$20,000 was saved from the safety door project as a good price was found and was completed from surplus in the Operating Budget in 2022.

The heat exchangers, however, at the Essex Recreation Centre (a shared project with the GECDSB) came in $51,270 higher.

All together, this brought the originally proposed $150,000 in the 2023 Budget listed under taxation to $80,000, reducing the tax increase to under four percent.

Council also granted authorization to complete, in fiscal year 2023, any previously approved projects that remain outstanding as of December 31, 2022 and do not appear in the 2023 Budget as presented, so long as the project costs do not exceed previously approved funding amounts or allocations

Mayor Sherry Bondy believes no one around the decision-making table wanted to charge any more in taxes than needed.

“We understand times are tough out there for residents,” she said, noting the cost of groceries and fuel has increased. “What we are trying to do here is provide a level of service for our residents that they come to expect – and hit our strategic priorities and fund capital projects – so that we are paying for what we need to and not putting it over on the future.”

Formal adoption of the 2023 Budget will occur through a By-Law that will be presented to Council, likely at the March 20 regular meeting.

The capital forecast will be presented to Council at a future date for consideration, after the Strategic Plan review is completed.

Bondy urged residents to get involved in the Strategic Planning process that will begin in the near-future, which is a Council-led project that will outline priorities over the next four-years.


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