Leamington has Net Zero Tax Increase

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Windsor Star/Monica Wolfson

LEAMINGTON – Council approved a budget Tuesday that has no net property tax increase for urban dwellers and a tax decrease for rural residents.

Leamington council achieved this, in part, by not filling a new position in the finance department that consultants had recommended in a service review.

The property tax levy for residents who live in town is made up of two parts.

All taxpayers pay the general levy, while town residents pay an additional levy to pay sewer and landfill debt costs. While council increased the urban levy by 2.68 per cent for 2014, the general levy decreased by .47 per cent.

For a taxpayer with a house valued at $150,000, the $7 increase under the urban levy is offset by a $7 decrease on the general levy. Rural residents will see a $7 decrease in property taxes.

Municipal taxes are only one-third of the property tax bill, which also contains a county and education levy. Leamington officials predict that once all three tax levies are combined, urban taxpayers will see a $1 decrease and rural residents will save $8 on a home valued at $150,000.

Coun. Rick Atkin complained that residents would have received an even better tax decrease, if not for the county.

“It’s the county that continues to recognize increases. They are down to 1.8 per cent (this year), but it’s been as high as four or five per cent,” Atkin said. “I hope (the mayor and deputy mayor) will continue to push that (down).”

Mayor John Paterson said he argued against the county increasing taxes. He said the problem is that the province isn’t paying its fair share of joint services like the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.

“Windsor’s share goes down (as the county grows) and ours goes up,” he said. “We need more provincial participation. It’s not that we are being extravagant.”

CAO Bill Marck said one of the issues is that Leamington has some of the lowest property values in Essex County, but the cost of building a road is the same everywhere.

“It’s a socio-economic thing,” he said. “We aren’t getting the huge single family residential units like in Lakeshore.”

The municipality’s $9.8-million capital budget includes money for waterline and drainage projects as well as $1.1 million for the Trans Canada Trail. The budget also has $314,000 for community grants, including $143,700 to the Leamington Mennonite Home, $60,000 for the Sun Parlour Players Community Theatre and $22,000 to Southshore Broadcasting Inc.

Council is being especially cautious on spending because of the potential impact that the closing of the Heinz plant might have on municipal coffers, Atkin said. The company paid $1.2 million in property taxes last year, 60 per cent of which went to the municipality.

“We are being very careful on our spending this year,” Atkin said.

The Heinz plant is slated to close in June with the loss of 750 full-time and 350 seasonal jobs. Highbury Canco, a consortium of investors, will take over operation of the plant to make Heinz products, but it will only be employing about 250 people.