By Kevin J. Sabo
For the Advance
In a close vote, and after intense discussion, Castor Town council has decided the fate of the 2021 tax rate.
After a defeated motion for a zero per cent tax increase, council narrowly passed a motion resulting in a one per cent increase for the year. Of the seven councillors voting, four voted in favour of the one per cent increase, with three against.
“My opinion is we need to have a zero per cent (increase) this year because of everything that has been happening (over the past year),” said Coun. Rod Zinger.
It was a sentiment shared by Coun. Lonny Nelner.
“I hate to say it, but I think we need to hold the line and say zero,” said Nelner.
“If people can’t pay their taxes, we’re in worse shape. I know next year won’t be that nice.”
Other councillors had concern that a zero change to this year’s tax rate could have cumulative effects, resulting in higher tax increases in 2022 or beyond.
“I’m leaning towards the one per cent,” said Coun. Trudy Kilner.
“I want zero, but I don’t want it to come back (on us). It could be three (per cent increase) next year.”
Even with the one per cent increase, administration will still be forced to transfer funds from reserves to balance the budget. Under the Municipal Government Act, municipalities are not allowed to present a deficit budget.
The budget presented to council is as lean as administration could make it, with over $90,000 worth of cuts from the previous year’s budget.
“As (senior management team) we have cut everything we possibly can,” said Chief Administrative Officer Christopher Robblee.
Any further budget cuts to Town budget would necessitate reduction in services, according to Robblee, which is something council was unwilling to entertain at this point.
As the budget currently sits, the largest piece of the Town budget is the operation of the Town serviced utilities, such as gas and water, which accounts for 24.1 per cent of spending.
The second most expensive portion of the budget is recreation, which accounts for 22.5 per cent of spending. Public works is the next largest budget item, accounting for 19.7 per cent of the budget.
Legislatively required services, such as Town council, account for 19 per cent of operational costs.
The next budget item, accounting for 11.1 per cent of all budget spending, is protective services, which covers police, fire, and Emergency Medical Services.
The smallest budget item in the Town of Castor is the garbage service provided by the Town, which accounts for 3.7 per cent of spending.
Any future cuts to the budget would have to come from one of these areas.
“(A tax increase) is not something taken lightly as council,” said Mayor Richard Elhard.