DAN CEARNS,
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, for The Standard

KAWARTHA LAKES: The City of Kawartha Lakes council has approved a municipal tax increase of 1.5 percent.


At a special council meeting on Tuesday, February 16th, council members deliberated and approved the 2021 operating budget.
The municipality was facing a potential 2021 tax increase of 3.84 percent going into the meeting. However, several measures were approved to lower the tax levy increase for this year. Council first decided to apply several 2020 surpluses to the 2021 budget, including the Fire Area C surplus, Lindsay Parks surplus, Street Lighting surplus, library surplus and the Kawartha Lakes Police surplus. This, plus a few other budget changes, brought the tax increase down to 2.66 percent.


Mayor Letham then felt there was more council could do to help residents this year, stating council had a “onetime opportunity” to use provincial funds to lower the tax increase.


“I think we have an opportunity we don’t usually have with this funding to offer a little bit of pandemic relief to our ratepayers for one year. It’s a onetime thing obviously,” Mayor Letham stressed, suggesting council use Safe Restart program funding to reduce the tax increase for this year to 1.5 percent.


Ward 3 Councillor Doug Elmslie countered with a two percent increase, stating a 1.5 percent increase “sets us up for unrealistic expectations going forward.”


“I think [a] two percent [increase], given what’s happened in the last year, keeps us on a good path. And it is probably in keeping with, or just below, what inflation is for the year,” Councillor Elmslie explained.


But Ward 1 Councillor Emmett Yeo supported Mayor Letham’s suggestion.


“We have used the provincial funding to the best of our abilities, and this just takes that provincial funding one step farther. Instead of putting it all in a reserve, we are taking that money and giving it back to the people. I see this as a great step, as a wise step, and I hope council will support it,” he stated.


Councillors later voted to support a 1.5 percent tax increase for this year and approve the 2021 operating budget.


In a statement, Mayor Letham called this year’s budget “responsible.” He stated it “maintains service levels, keeps reserves healthy and gives [council] some options to consider in the fall.”