Township council will be taking a long look at municipal reserves as part of an operational review.
A report from Treasurer Laura Barta earlier this month noted that the municipality had $21.4 million socked away in reserves, reserve funds and trust funds at the end of 2018.
The report charted a $7-million increase to those accounts over the last term of council. The total started at $14.1 million in 2014 before increasing to $15.4 million in 2015, $17 million in 2016 and $19.1 million in 2017.
During a presentation last week, Barta told members of council that operational surpluses during that same time period totaled more than $3.1 million — $851,000 in 2014, $794,000 in 2015, $477,000 in 2016, $745,000 in 2017 and $310,000 in 2018.
Those figures prompted Ward 1 Councillor Mike Jubb to note that the municipality was effectively “taxing people twice.”
Regional Councillor Ted Smith – one of only two holdovers from last term, was quick to respond – saying he took offense to that generalization.
“I find that difficult to accept,” he said.
“The money isn’t lost; the money is still there.”
While the money from an operational surplus does remain in the Township coffers, it typically is directed into a rate stabilization fund, which can be used at the discretion of council to offset tax increases in future years.
“The individual ratepayer thinks they’ve been overtaxed,” said Mayor Debbie Bath-Hadden, noting that she tends to agree with that assessment.
“It’s been over-inflated at times in the past” added Ward 3 Councillor Walter Schummer, referring to the rate stabilization fund as a “slush fund.”
One possible option, Mayor Bath-Hadden suggested, would see the dissolution of the rate stabilization fund, while Coun. Jubb called for a commitment from council to use operational surpluses during the next calendar year.
“I would like to see us have this discussion,” he said.
Ward Councillor Claire Doble and Ward 5 Councillor Lynn Campbell both said it was key to strike a “balance” between the needs of the municipality and those of taxpayers.