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Halton Hills Proposal to Increase Tax Rate to 6.62% Would Be Largest Since 2011

Town Proposal Would Boost Tax, Municipal Employee Wages, Benefits and Compensation, While Cutting Some Services and Programs.

The Town of Halton Hills held a budget committee meeting on January 30 and 31 and ultimately decided to reduce the original recommended 7.40% tax rate to 6.62%. If passed, the tax rate increase marks the largest since 2011, with only three instances between 2004-2011 surpassing the 6.62% rate. The Town is facing a difficult financial year as they deal with potential loss of revenue from the More Homes Built Faster Act (Bill 23), which could impact the municipality between $58 million and $75 million.

The overall sentiment at the committee was arduous, as the town weighed the budget between needs and wants. Mayor Ann Lawlor, who ran an election platform with the promise to “respect your money”, stated in her January 2023 message, “It’s my sense that this is not the year for big property tax increases, and that is the message I’ll be sharing with my Council colleagues.”

As a result, nine projects were either removed from the budget or scaled down, with a total reduction of $460,600. This included three level 3 electric vehicle chargers, a climate change specialist, security cameras, “Truth and Reconciliation” crosswalks, and tree planting informational videos to name a few. Councillor Jason Brass stated, “The Town needs to get out of the charging business and leave it up to the private sector.” referring to electric vehicle chargers. Councillor Inglis mentioned, “How many crosswalks do we need to prove our point?” and “in a difficult budget year, which I am taking this as, I am going to support to take that component out”.

There were proposals to transfer items such as the Truth and Reconciliation program to the tax rate stabilization reserve, but Town Treasurer Moya Leighton stated, “The tax rate stabilize reserve balances are extremely low right now." Councillor Somerville commented, “Taking the operating budget to increase it from that is smoke and mirrors.” He added, “If we can’t afford the things like I said, then the isn’t the year to do them, we just hold off.” Eventually, the Council decided against moving this to the reserve and instead decided to postpone phase 2 of the program instead. In regards to the program, Councillor Racinsky said, “I believe we are facing a challenging financial situation with the state of our reserves, recent provincial legislation, and other factors presented to us by staff. If we can’t fund this through the tax rate stabilize reserve, then I would unfortunately have to move to delay it for a year, instead of removing it.”

Another cut to the budget was the community creativity and cultural hub, which would need $86,000 for a new space and programming for residents and businesses. Councillor Hilson stated that “This is a new project, in a different year I might have supported it, but when due to economic conditions, we have residents who are choosing between buying groceries and paying rent, I don’t feel right moving forward on this”.

Despite facing budget cuts, the proposal manages to raise town wages, compensation, and benefits. This increase amounted to $1,525,206 and included the following components:

  • $244,535 increase due to changes in statutory deductions, minimum wage increase, and union contract adjustments.

  • $565,479 increase in wages due to performance increments, job evaluation changes, and changes in staffing approved in 2022.

  • $715,192 increase for a non-union economic adjustment of 1.5%, a union economic adjustment of 2.0%, and adjustments to part-time wages as recommended through the part-time wage review.

To retain existing contractual positions, $446,400 was taken from the base operating budget. These contract resources, which were temporarily funded from reserves, are critical to the town's existing programs such as the traffic calming program, Asset Management Planning, cybersecurity, and online service delivery.

The final approval for the proposal will take place at the February 13th council meeting. If approved, the previously proposed tax rate of 7.40% will be reduced to 6.62%, resulting in a combined rate of 4.26% with the Region and Education portions included.


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