By Sarah Bissonette|Apr 25, 2012 - 11:03 AM - http://www.cottagecountrynow.ca/community/parrysound/article/1342382
SEGUIN TWP. - As of June 17, Seguin Township will be debt free.
The municipality has successfully paid off $6.6 million in debt incurred between 1998 and 2003.
“It’s a good news report,” said Mayor David Conn about chief financial officer’s budget report presented to council during the April 16 council meeting. “The good news (is that) again we’re lowering our tax rate. The good news is our residents are going to pay essentially the same as in 2011. The good new is we’ll be debt free soon.”
This year’s municipal taxes decreased by 0.1 per cent even with the average assessment increasing from $405,389 to $424,400.
“Council and staff are to be commended for keeping the budget increase below the rate of inflation without sacrificing the quality of life for Seguin residents,” said Rod Smith, chair of the Seguin Finance Committee, in a press release. “All Seguin’s resident benefit from living in a fiscally prudent township.”
The turning point from years of budget deficits to surpluses was the 2004 budget.
At the time, Coun. Bruce Gibbon was chair of the township’s finance committee and not a member of council. At the last council meeting, he revisited the township’s 2004 budget, as presented during a public meeting that spring.
“I will never forget the man who addressed council in tears about his island in Lake Rosseau, they were at risk of losing it with the assessment (increasing) and taxes following,” said Gibbon.
Municipal property taxes had increased 36 per cent between 1998 and 2003, compared to the provincial average of six per cent, and township spending was up141 per cent with the majority of that in-house discretionary spending.
The future outlook was bleak, the township told residents, if something wasn’t done to get spending under control.
The options included slashing expenses, raising taxes between 30 to 49 per cent and incurring more debt to buy time.
The township decided to borrow $1.5 million, but that wasn’t needed, Gibbon reminded council, with costs held steady instead of growing, and a 12 per cent increase in tax revenue.
Since 2003, Seguin’s municipal tax rate has decreased 29 per cent, from 0.49 per cent to 0.34 per cent.
This, said Gibbon, was accomplished with financial planning, strong leadership and, most important, staff support bringing costs under control by finding efficiencies.
“Tough medicine was the key,” said Conn.
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