Lambton Shores budget tinkering to further reduce 2017 tax rates
LAMBTON SHORES — Sudden and unexpected reconsideration of a municipal budget that was formally adopted four months ago has created additional tax relief for local property owners.
How did this happen? Based on mid-January’s approval of the annual revenue-versus-expenditures document and receipt of a more recent Lambton County council adoption of this year’s tax policies and related tax ratios, Lambton Shores treasurer Janet Ferguson presented to council’s May 16 meeting a report seeking approval of her calculation of 2017 tax rates and a bylaw that would implement them.
In a 5-4 recorded vote, the treasurer’s recommendations — including a local Lambton Shores rate reduction of about one per cent — were rejected by opponents Deputy Mayor Cook and councillors Dave Maguire (Ward One), Dan Sageman (Ward Two), Ronn Dodge (Ward Four) and Jeff Wilcox (Ward Seven). Supporting on the losing side were Mayor Bill Weber and councillors Gerry Rupke (Ward Three), Rick Goodhand (Ward Five) and James Finlay (Ward Six).
That was followed by a motion floated by Coun. Wilcox that $125,000 be lifted from the Tax Rate Stabilization Reserve Fund to reduce the budget’s tax levy requirement. That was temporarily set aside by a procedural requirement for a motion to ‘reconsider’ the budget which passed in a 5-4 vote.
That cleared the way for a 6-3 recorded vote on the Wilcox motion to approve the $125,000 levy reduction which was opposed only by Mayor Weber and councillors Rupke and Finlay. And it assigns treasurer Ferguson to revise her calculations and the implementing bylaw for presentation to council’s June 6 meeting.
Withdrawal from the Tax Rate Stabilization Reserve Fund of $125,000 matches the amount deposited into that reserve when council decided at a March session how to allocate a surplus of about $8 million from 2016 operations. No one at the May 16 meeting made an estimate of how much the $125,000 will reduce the Lambton Shores portion of the tax rate but Deputy Mayor Cook later told the Times-Advocate, “I believe from previous budget discussions, $110,000 is roughly a one per cent tax rate increase/decrease.”
In her May 16 report, treasurer Ferguson told council that the Province of Ontario has reduced this year’s education residential tax rate by 4.79 per cent while the County of Lambton has increased its residential rate by 0.09 per cent. If the treasurer’s original recommendation had been approved, the net result of the combined school, county and local municipal tax rates would have been a reduction of 1.20 per cent or $13.85 per $100,000.00 of a home’s or cottage’s assessed value.
But Ferguson also notes the reality that Ontario’s Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) has again increased the presumed values of most residential properties so that what she selects as an “average” Lambton Shores home rated at $245,700 for last year’s tax bill now is assessed at $257,985.
If council had approved the treasurer’s initial report, the owner of that “average” home would have faced an overall tax bill of $2,944.28, an increase of $106.16 (3.74 per cent) from 2016. However her June 6 report on revised Lambton Shores’ local tax rates will shave that ‘extra hit’ to some degree.
As reported in the T-A’s April 8 edition, Anne Walkinshaw of Ontario West Coast Landowners’ Association told council that a majority of last year’s $800,000 surplus should be returned “to the people who pay the bills” by reducing the 2017 taxation levy that council established with its budget approval in January. That position was also advocated by an obviously agitated Cam Ivey, first mayor of Lambton Shores, who told the T-A he had been too late to book time at the delegation podium but vigorously delivered his opinion to various council members, in the presence of this reporter, before and after the March 28 meeting.