Newmarket ratepayers could face an increase of more than $96 on their 2022 tax bill.
The $171.6-million draft budget for 2022 features a 1.99 per cent tax hike, as well as a 3.8 per cent water rate increase principally from York Region, and a 10 per cent stormwater increase, amounting to an average tax bill increase of $96.81 if approved by council.
Mayor John Taylor praised staff for dropping the tax rate increase from 2.99 per cent, which was initially pitched last May, by finding $667,000 in efficiencies and reductions.
“It takes more work to do that than I think the public thinks sometimes,” Taylor said at an Oct. 4 council meeting. “We’ve not only managed to bring it down to 1.99, but we’re doing that while keeping one per cent dedicated to asset replacement and an increase in our reserves.”
The budget is far from being finalized, with the council scheduled to hold special meetings in October and November to make more adjustments. The municipality projects the budget will be finalized Dec. 13.
Manager of finance and accounting Andrea Tang said staff went back to the drawing board and were able to find the one per cent reduction while maintaining service levels.
“What we strive for is to maintain the service levels and continue to deliver service excellence,” Tang said.
She said 0.25 per cent of the reduction comes from removing an increase to a contingency reserve started last year, amounting to $167,000. The reserve was allocated $500,000 in 2021, which Tang said should be sufficient.
Other sources for the decrease were Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund to fund eligibile asset management expenditures ($305,000) and other efficiencies across all town departments, including halting hiring for several positions ($195,000).
Councillor Victor Woodhouse said the town seemed to be in a "reasonable position given all the ups and downs," but he questioned the impact that rapid inflation could have on the budget, with an 18-year-high 4.1 per cent inflation rate in August, according to Statistics Canada.
“Wages and cost of material, etcetera,” Woodhouse said. “There’s certainly a great debate within the business community about whether it’s built in now or whether it’s transitory.”
Tang responded that the inflation spike appears to be based on the deflation and lack of spending in 2020, with 2021 being a catch-up year. As such, she said the long-term forecast is more stable.
The 1.99 per cent amounts to $44.09 on an average tax bill, with the 3.8 per cent water rate increase amounting to $48.09 and the stormwater rate increase amounting to $4.63 on the average home.
Councillor Bob Kwapis said although he does not want to diminish the municipal rate increase, he thinks the 1.99 per cent raise is fair for the circumstances.
"For the services that we're getting," Kwapis said. "That's a pretty good achievement with the inflation rates and some of the impacts we have to deal with."
The municipality is also exploring asset management planning to sustain its infrastructure, which could result in a larger tax increase in the range of two to three per cent in years to come.
“There certainly is more process ahead,” Taylor said. “And more opportunity for public input.”