A 2022 budget deficit is looming in the Town of The Blue Mountains and taxpayers are facing a possible 10 per cent tax increase in 2023.
At council’s committee of the whole meeting on Sept. 27, Deputy Treasurer and Manager of Accounting and Budgets Sam Dinsmore presented council with the year-end budget forecast that predicted a potential shortfall in the taxation budget of $350,000. Dinsmore clarified that the numbers are preliminary, unaudited and just until the end of August, which means plenty can change over the next four months.
“Missed revenue targets, that is the main driver behind that,” said Dinsmore.
The report showed that the town’s expected revenue from parking fees was just $216,800 compared to a $600,000 budget forecast.
Dinsmore said the revenue issue would compound in 2023. He noted that there will be increased expenses, less revenue and more money needed for reserves for future capital requirements. The potential 10 per cent increase would be to the town’s portion of the property tax bill and would not include the amounts for Grey County and the school boards.
CAO Shawn Everitt told council that town staff will be doing everything they can to mitigate the deficit.
“Nothing is off the table. We are looking at every opportunity from now until the end of the year to reduce that deficit,” he said. “From a staff perspective, we’re not satisfied with that.”
Coun. Rob Sampson asked for a follow-up report with some options for council to consider that would help alleviate the issues.
“We need options on how we can help plug the hole. When you’re in a hole, you put away the shovel,” he said. “COVID and other things have not helped. What can we do to help mitigate some of the pain?”
Coun. Paula Hope called on council to abandon its appeal of an Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) decision on the Abbotts subdivision. Hope noted that the town has now spent more than $110,000 on the appeal to the OLT and the subsequent request to review that decision.
“It concerns me that that bill is going up and up and up and it’s a questionable pursuit,” said Hope. “This is not a good use of town money.”
Deputy Mayor Peter Bordignon urged everybody to be cautious with their reactions to year-end forecasts presented in September.
“It’s prudent, but dangerous to put numbers out in September,” he said, noting that the 2022 forecasted tax increase started at 23 per cent before council and staff worked it down to a manageable number of around 2.5 per cent. “We have to protect the taxpayers’ wallets.”