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Friday, March 25, 2011

Cuts Found in City Budget

Owen Sound | by Jonathon Jackson  

Owen Sound Council finds 267 thousand in savings, lowers tax increase.

Property owners in Owen Sound are looking at an average tax increase of just over 3 per cent.

City council wrapped up its financial talks on Thursday and finished with a muncipal tax increase of 4.16 per cent after finding 267 thousand dollars worth of savings on the last day.

When combined with the County increase and the education levy -- it works out to an average tax hike of 3.1 per cent.

Commercial property owners will pay less than that and the residential rate will be higher.

Mayor Deb Haswell and Financial Services Director Wayne Ritchie both say a lot of work went into trimming the numbers.

The process began in January with council considering a 7.64 per cent increase -- a figure that was cut to 5.45 per cent entering these last days of deliberation.

Thursday's savings were highlighted by an unexpected 2.55 per cent decrease in the police services budget, a reduction of more than 166 thousand dollars.

Council did add revenues by way of 10-per cent hikes to water and wastewater rates, but those moves were expected.

Other savings were found in the fire department, where 35 thousand dollars will be saved after the elimination of the dive team and an undetermined amount will be realized from a change to the tiered response model for firefighters.

Haswell says that while any tax increase is unwanted, it's a reality and she's pleased that a new council which has only been in place for a few months was able to get the numbers as low as they are.

The budget will be presented to the public and hopefully passed at a council meeting on April 18th.


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