Ritchot Council Presents 2017 Budget

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Ritchot’s 2017 budget plan is finalized and property tax bills are in mailboxes. A three-month break in council administration and a by-election left residents of the municipality in limbo until the new budget could pass its final readings.

Though the previous council had already performed the rigours of creating the budget, Mayor Chris Ewen says the new council still needed to review the numbers and ensure that all the final approvals were in place.

On August 10, the new council and chief administrative officer (CAO) held a public meeting, providing an overview of Ritchot’s 2017 financial plan and opening the floor for questions and feedback. Under different circumstances, the public hearing would have been scheduled for a date prior to May 15.

“I don’t believe there are any big shockers in this budget,” says Ewen. “Our administration all work their hardest to ensure the right suggestions come to council, always at the best dollar possible. We have road reconstruction in Île-des-Chênes and St. Adolphe that have needed attention for some time and it’s great that it’s in the budget to be completed this next year. Some ‘fun’ money for the town committees to improve their community sites, parks, and centres is another great thing for all residents. The Ste. Agathe fire hall is another project I am very excited about.”

Based on this year’s financial plan, residents will see a five percent increase on their tax bill if their property assessment has not changed since 2016. Factors that might cause an assessment change could include the addition or extension of buildings on a property site.

Those property owners receiving garbage and recycling services will see a further increase of $170.

The 2017 property assessment rates are still based on 2014 market values. 2018 will mark a new assessment year for the provincial assessment branch, bringing property values closer to current resale values. 

This year, Ritchot’s portioned assessment (the portion of a property’s value that is taxable) went up by 5.3 percent from last year. This increase is primarily due to new builds in Ritchot in the last year, providing an extra source of taxation income. In preparing the budget, council took this number into consideration, along with other revenues.

The municipality’s total proposed revenue for the year is $7.5 million, and the total expenses have been portioned to equal that number. The school mill rates in all five school divisions have seen increases, some up to 17 percent.

Mitch Duval, Ritchot’s CAO, reminded residents at the public hearing that the municipality has no control over school mill rates, but the municipality is required to collect these taxes on the school divisions’ behalf.

Outside of property taxes, 44 percent of Ritchot’s revenue is obtained through grant funding; 15 percent through the sale of goods such as land, equipment, and water; and six percent from the sale of services such as fire department calls, recycling kickbacks, property variations, and conditional use permits.

On the expenditures side, transportation consumes the largest portion of the RM’s budget, coming in at 30 percent. Transportation services include equipment purchases and rentals; salaries for the Public Works Department; road, street, bridge, boulevard, and sidewalk upgrades and maintenance; and street lighting.

General government expenditures total 19 percent of the budget and include all costs required to run a civic building and maintain salaries for council members and staff. 

Fifteen percent is dedicated to environmental health, including garbage and recycling collection, Dutch Elm disease control, and the municipal water system. 

A variety of capital expenditures have taken centre stage in this year’s budget. Among those are the Ste. Agathe Fire Hall Project, estimated at $2.25 million. There will also be some new additions of equipment and storage facilities to the Public Works Department, coming close to $240,000.The Main Street Revitalization project will see a boost of $70,000. Also, $1.1 million has been dedicated to water and sewer services, while $696,000 will provide for road and sidewalk construction projects in all four wards.

Ewen feels confident in this new budget and his role as mayor.

“The learning curve has been significantly small,” he says. “We have such a well-rounded council that each member brings great knowledge to the table, making all of our jobs easier.”

Due to the late release of this year’s property tax bills, Ritchot council has decided to extend discounts to residents for early payment. Typical discounted rates in previous years meant a 1.5 percent discount for payments received in the month of June and one percent for those received in July. The same discounts will be available this summer if payment is made by the end of August or September. 

All property tax bills are due for payment no later than 4:30 p.m. on October 31 and a one percent penalty will be applied per month on unpaid balances.

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