By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Years of favourable tax increases may have come to an end for Hamiltonians in 2013.
With only two more meetings scheduled for councillors to deliberate this year’s budget before approving it later this month,Hamiltonresidents are facing at proposed 2.2 per cent average tax increase, or an additional $75 to the average property tax bill.
The last time council approved more than a one per cent tax increase was back in 2010 when politicians agreed to a 2 per cent tax increase. In 2011 the tax hike was a record-setting 0.8 per cent, and last year the increase was 0.9 per cent.
City staff did manage to cut the proposed tax increase from 2.9 per cent to 2.2. per cent within a month, and there is a still a chance the hike will be further reduced by politicians by their March 27 self-imposed deadline.
Councillors did agree at their Feb. 28 government issues committee meeting with staff recommendations to slice another $5 million from the budget. The city is saving about half a million dollars with theMcMasterUniversitylease, and about $800,000 in winter control services. Other items include $20,000 in salaries and benefits, $56,000 with the Farmer’s Market, and $278,000 in bio-diesel fuel. Councillors kept about $36,000 by not cancelling Winterfest.
Politicians still have to deal with about $5 million in referred items they put off, which if they were all approved would boost the tax increase to 2.8 per cent.
If councillors want to reach their zero per cent target, established last fall, they would have to find another $17.7 million to cut, or a combination of raising new revenues.
Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson asked staff to outline the financial impact of raising bus fares by 5 cents, 10 cents and 15 cents. Even though his motion was approved by the committee, his colleagues are adamant there will be no transit fare hike this year.
Politicians are scheduled to return to their budget deliberations March 7, and March 21.