Council for the Village of Cumberland has opted to stay the course when it comes to using reserve funds.
The idea on the table was to use some of the reserve money the Village is putting away for emergency and public safety services – particularly funding for police in the future – to reduce property taxes that could provide some short-term relief in light of economic fallout from COVID-19. The Village will have to start paying for police when the population hits 5,000.
The reserve fund was the subject of a special council meeting on the afternoon of May 4. Council has to adopt its property tax bylaw by the middle of month to send out notices, so council has its next regular meeting on May 11 to finalize the bylaw. (Note: This story story went to press before the May 11 meeting.)
The Village’s financial plan has a 4.62 per cent tax rate increase, which, with utilities and front tax rate increases, amounts to an average hike of $178 for an average single-family home, though with school and police rates since added, the total would be $193.
At the special meeting, staff presented council with options of using money earmarked for the police reserve fund along with additional surplus money from growth for either residential or commercial property classes, or both. In all, there were six different scenarios up for consideration.
One consideration was whether to redirect a surplus of $59,700 or include the other $47,770 in new residential growth taxes that had already been budgeted, which add up to roughly $107,000.
Coun. Jesse Ketler had suggested the Village look into the idea to help provide some relief, and she was the one who consistently supported the measure. While she cited the need for the reserve funds, she felt it could provide immediate help to residents.
“They are undergoing a huge hit now because of COVID,” she said. “It is worth doing.”
For most on council, the amount that the property tax increase that would be reduced this year was not enough to justify reducing the amount to be transferred to the reserve.
“To me, it doesn’t feel like a lot of money back,” said Coun. Gwyn Sproule. “I think the Village needs to look after the Village.”
While the total depends on the scenario, in general a property tax bill fior a single-family home would come down by an average of $38, or $67 if the whole $107,000 was directed to this purpose.
“It’s not actually going to help the people who are suffering the most,” said Coun. Vickey Brown, referring to renters who would benefit little, even if landlords passed on the reduction.
There was also a question of fairness in that the options only considered two property classes.
Some council members also suggested the Village can still use this money in the short term to help in other ways in the near future if there are further unexpected costs from the pandemic.
In the end, Sproule made a motion to continue to put the money into the emergency and public safety reserve fund as planned, which passed with only Ketler voting in opposition.