The Village of Cumberland is planning on an increase to municipal taxes of just under five per cent for the coming year.
Council held committee of the whole meetings with staff on Oct. 27 and 30 to go through the update of its five-year financial plan. The plans staff presented to council originally called for an increase of 4.19 per cent. However, there were several discretionary items up for discussion for which staff wanted direction.
After a lengthy discussion at the Cultural Centre on Friday, council wanted to add a few items, which would add an estimated cost of $114,600. Of these, the biggest item would be adding one full-time equivalent front-desk and customer service person in the Village office, something all members of council supported and which they expect the public would appreciate.
“I think our staff desperately need it, and so does our community, especially with the office not open, just to make things more efficient,” said Coun. Vickey Brown.
The other items council wants to be added to the five-year financial plan include increased janitorial hours for public facilities and washrooms, an increase to the operating budget for parks, monetization of the recreational vehicle sani-dump, continued operation of the public bathroom in Village Square and a management plan for trees.
The additional items would initially have added another two per cent to the 4.19 per cent hike, but council did not want the municipal portion of taxes to rise above five per cent.
To cover the additions, the Village expects to raise the municipal tax portion by up to 4.95 per cent while making adjustments or maximizing a couple of property categories. The other major variable is the portion of revenue that comes from new development taxes. Coun. Jesse Ketler was a little concerned about relying on a particular amount from these taxes.
“I just want to talk about the risk of our strategy with the growth taxes,” she told her colleagues.
This provided the final point of discussion at Friday’s meeting. Chief financial officer Michelle Mason outlined the amount of revenue for the Village in recent years. A decade ago, the annual amount was typically in the $50,000-$70,000 range. It dropped dramatically to $1,500 in 2014, then started to rise in the following years. Both 2018 and 2019 saw levels of $136,000 and $260,000, respectively. The figure the Village is using for the coming year is $80,000. To address concerns, Mason informed council that the financial stabilization reserve could be used to offset smaller than expected growth tax revenue.
The proposal for the budget is only preliminary as the matter was still at the committee level. It will have to come back before council at a regular meeting as a bylaw. The Village also plans for a public information meeting slated for Nov. 16 for people to have a look at the financial plan in greater detail.