Mississippi Mills in 2012

We are now at the start of the second full year of the current Council. I believe I have shed most of my downy rookie fuzz to reveal a councillor better equipped to work in the "house of eleven hard-to-herd cats," a.k.a. town hall.

Here is my list of the challenges, issues and opportunities ahead.

Budget 2012

The last version of the budget we examined in December suggested a 10% increase in the town's tax levy was likely. (Based on expected school and county taxes, it would mean an overall 5% property tax increase.) This increase is triple what the county and Carleton Place propose for 2012. Why are we so much higher?

A big part of our proposed increase is needed to maintain core infrastructure (roads and bridges) and is quite justifiable. The Town has "short-changed" the roads department for a few years and needs to make that up. We also need to put more money into reserves to help pay for expenditures down the road instead of taking on new debt.

Still, we could do better. When Council adds new projects or services to its budget, it should examine old programs and services to see if they remain relevant. Some old "sacred cows" could be culled.

For example, the Town will hand over $140,000 (representing 2.3% of our tax revenue) this year to Carleton Place so that our residents can use their recreation facilities, pool, and library on the same terms as CP residents. Mississippi Mills has two arenas, two libraries, and many sports facilities. Other than the pool, do we really need to use the CP facilities? (Also, CP residents use our library without a reciprocal payment.)

Late last year, Councillor Wilkinson proposed that we dump most of the CP agreement and reimburse our residents if CP makes them pay for a library card. It would save us about $100,000. I and one other councillor supported her fine idea.

Business Reviews

The Town has embarked on a strategic plan review to be followed by an operational review. The first sets goals for the next few years while the latter examines the resources (staff, equipment, etc.) needed to achieve those goals. In the end, we hope to run the Town more efficiently.

New Sewage and Septage Costs

This year, the new wastewater treatment plant and its septage treatment facility will come online. With that comes debt payments related to its construction, plus ongoing operational costs for staff and maintenance. Costs related to the sewage treatment portion will be covered by increases in Almonte water bills.

The septage component is less clear. The previous Council decided to apply a one-time tax to rural residents to cover the capital cost of septage. The exact amount is not yet set. Also, the previous Council assumed operating costs would be covered by tipping fees paid by septage haulers. That may not happen. The province still shows no signs of forcing septage haulers to abandon their own lagoons and field-spreading in favor of the Town's facility. If there are no tipping fees, Council will be under some pressure to add a levy to rural tax bills to cover operations.

Sharing Hydro Revenues

In the next few months, I expect Council will finally agree on how to share the revenues generated by the hydro plant and distribution network. (Currently, all profits go to Almonte ward). I hope that the rural share will initially go to reduce or eliminate the proposed one-time septage tax.

New Web Site

The Town will soon have a completely redesigned web site. This should make it easier for you to keep abreast of these and other issues.


Anonymous said...

2.5% increase. That is what was promised!

Shaun J. McLaughlin said...

My promise (if you look at my Promise List) was tax increases no greater than inflation, not a specific percentage.