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Grey Highlands considers using Talisman cash to lower tax hike

The Talisman land sale funds are uncommitted and council is considering using them for capital needs
Grey Highlands town hall
The Grey Highlands municipal office.

Faced with a tough budget process in 2023, Grey Highlands council is going to consider using some of the $1.6 million it received from the sale of two pieces of the former Talisman property to lower the forecast tax increase.

The idea was discussed at council’s committee of the whole budget meeting on Jan. 25. Over the past two weeks council has been meeting as committee of the whole to deliberate on the proposed 2023 budget.

The initial draft budget projected a nine per cent increase to the portion of the budget covered by Grey Highlands taxpayers. Of that total, four per cent was for capital/asset management needs to be funded from current year taxation.

Over the course of a number of budget meetings, council has trimmed the capital impact on the tax levy from $521,651 (four per cent) to $197,651 (1.5 per cent).

With that capital figure in mind, multiple councillors suggested using proceeds from the sale of the two former Talisman properties to help lower the impact on the budget.

“We have to sharpen our pencils. This may be an opportunity,” said finance chair, Coun. Tom Allwood.

Director of Finance/Treasurer Anna McCarthy said the net amount Grey Highlands received from the Talisman sale is $1.6 million. The money is in a reserve fund and has not been allocated. McCarthy said if council wanted to consider using the Talisman funds for capital needs, she suggested drawing on the money over a period of years to avoid using it immediately.

“I recommend we don’t apply it all at once,” said McCarthy.

A scenario suggested during the meeting would see council use some of the Talisman money to fund the $197,651 capital impact on the levy. This would ensure that the municipality is collecting the same amount in taxation for capital needs in 2023 as it did in 2022.

McCarthy said the municipality’s asset management plan calls for increases to the tax levy to pay for future capital requirements.

Both Allwood and Mayor Paul McQueen suggested setting aside the Talisman fund for future capital needs was a good way to use those funds.

“It would benefit all of the taxpayers of Grey Highlands,” said Allwood. “It’s a very difficult year. We have had trouble finding any wiggle room.”

McQueen said currently the funds are in a general reserve.

“We’ve sold these lands. It’s a clear statement to say we’re going to put it into an asset management reserve for the future,” said the mayor. “Putting it all in asset management is a clean way of doing it.”

The idea did find traction around the council table, however council voted to defer further discussions on the Talisman funds until later in the budget process.

“It’s an important conversation to have,” said Coun. Nadia Dubyk, who said she would like more time to think about the concept before making a decision.

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About the Author: Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Chris Fell covers The Blue Mountains and Grey Highlands under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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