Joseph Morin
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

WINCHESTER – It’s all over except for the shouting as North Dundas inches its way to the end of their 2021 annual budget calculations.

For the first time in over 20 years the North Dundas commercial and residential tax rate is going unbelievably backwards.

The budget has not been formally accepted yet by councillors, but their Wed., March 10 budget meeting was the one where they verbally finalized many budget considerations resulting in a decrease in last year’s residential tax rate of 2.1 per cent.

That tax rate does not include the rate generated by the United Counties of SD&G portion or the Upper Canada School Board.

The final vote will take place at the March 23 council meeting, but between now and then it could change, however the municipality is not expecting it to.

Mayor Tony Fraser said, “There is a reduction in the levy, and a reduction in the tax rate; it’s almost unheard of.”

Fraser said the budget was a good one. “We are looking at doing roads. We have an aggressive road plan in front of us and this budget addresses the first part of that plan.”

He said the municipality is also going to put in a trackless sidewalk machine for clearing snow off of sidewalks.

“This is a pandemic and it is one of the concerns that we all have. The times are difficult. The pressures on people are varied. There was a feeling of let’s make sure we do the right thing,” said Fraser.

He said there are some projects the council could have done, but the overriding question was whether they should be done during a pandemic.

“We have given notice that we plan to pass the budget on the 23rd. My goal is that we do that,” he said.

It was a case of shaving away as much as they could from the budget. Councillors debated the merits of just about everything in their budget from proposed new staff for Public Works, a new salt dome to a portable generator for the South Mountain Agricultural Hall. Along the way they removed around $607,000 from the budget.

North Dundas treasurer John Gareau has worked at the township for 20 years.

Mr. Gareau said he does not recall any prior year of the levy being reduced during his time at the township office.

The preliminarily draft budget was looked at from Dec. 8 to 15 and came in at $7,091,126 representing an increase in the residential tax rate of 3.5 per cent if left as is.

That was an increase of $303,269 from last year.

On Jan. 6, the council met again to discuss operational needs and the wish lists from all the municipalities’ department heads. The end result was a request by the council for managers to take a second look at their individual budgets.

Budget discussions reconvened on Feb. 9 and again on March 10 to look at the latest budget picture. This round table discussion with input from all council members, resulted in a proposed taxation levy of $6,711,420 – which is $76,437 less than the 2020 taxation requirement and results in a decrease in the residential tax rate of 2.1 per cent.

In 2020 that final amount needed through taxation was $6,787,857.

Gareau said that most residents in North Dundas will not see an increase in the municipal portion of their 2021 tax bill.

“Due to the pandemic, the number of properties assessed by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) were greatly reduced. In addition, since 2020 represented the last year of the previous four-year phase-in of assessment growth, the assessment for 2021 is largely the same as it was for 2020,” he said.

From the treasurer’s perspective, Gareau believes this particular budget to be a very responsible one.

“In view of these unprecedented times in which we find ourselves, I believe it is a very socially and fiscally responsible budget. I believe it takes into account the needs of the ratepayers and inhabitants of North Dundas; no reductions were made to any areas that would put the health or safety of any of our residents at risk, and conversely a couple of large ticket items like the salt dome were deferred for this year,” he said.