County of Brant councillors approved a 5.8 percent property tax increase in the 2023 operating budget during their regular council meeting on Tuesday, February 28.
Council members came to the decision that will result in an increase of approximately $184.44 for the median home per year.
During discussions about the increase, Councillor John Bell raised concerns about whether or not the increase would be enough to offset the stress in the future.
“This illustrates that we have a growing community, we’re giving more services to that growing community,” he said. “That’s why our property taxes have indeed increased. And it just sort of raised my concern that there was a second concern, and that’s really looking forward. We need to reflect on the fact that next year we might be asking our residents for 10 or 12 or more percent.”
Councillor Bell debated his stance on considering a steeper increase in 2023 to ease the burden of a steeper increase in 2024. He stated that he worried how a lower increase would impact the future financial plan.
Disagreeing with Councillor Bell, Councillor Brian Coleman reminded council that many community members are still trying to recover from the aftermath of the pandemic.
“I’m getting tired of hearing about the future financial plan,” Councillor Coleman said. “We have just gone through two and a half years of COVID. How can we ask staff to do anything more than what they’ve already done? I appreciate what the staff has done with this. We’ll deal with next year’s budget and the future when it comes.”
Councillor Christine Garneau also expressed concerns with Councillor Bell’s suggestion, noting that residents in her ward have shared their struggles with her.
“I’ve taken a number of calls in recent weeks primarily from seniors and folks with young families who are still struggling in the current economy,” she said. “And so while I want to support Councillor Bell, I think I can’t support the amendment at this time.”
To offset the financial stress, county staff recommended withdrawing some funds from the Brant County Power account to help with projects planned for 2023, including the new library in Paris.
“I appreciate the fact that taking that money from Brant County Power is going to add 3 percent on to next year to start us off again, I understand the numbers,” Councillor John Peirce said in support of the recommendation. “My thinking is whether we use some of those funds now, or we use it five years down the road or we keep talking about it for the next 20 years, that $32 million never gets touched. Whenever we do it it’s going to cost us an impact on following your budget.”
Councillor Garneau shared that she also supports the recommendation to use a portion of these funds this year.
“I reflect back on the projects that were chosen to be funded out of the Brant County power,” she said. “What I like about them is they affect everyone regardless of where you live in the county and their socio economic status. I was initially in the camp of not touching those funds was the intent of them but it seemed that these projects did meet that.”
Arguing against Councillor Bell’s motion to consider a higher tax increase to avoid touching the Brant County Power fund, Councillor Robert Chambers reminded his fellow council members that the proposed increase will have a higher impact on industries and farm properties in the county.
“What people need to realize is that there are a lot of things that are being taxed aren’t the median homes,” Councillor Robert Chambers said. “For example, on a farm property or a company like Tigercat, the 5.8 percent is not just $189, it’s huge. When you talk in terms of percentage increases on a large tax bill it is a large amount, so let’s not lose sight of that because we have more than median home owners paying taxes.”
After back and forth conversations and debate, Mayor David Bailey called for the vote. After defeating Councillor Bell’s motion to increase by a much higher margin, Councillor John MacAlpine put forward a motion to increase by 5.8 percent. The motion was carried.