Napanee faces average residential tax hike of 6.68 per cent

Bag tags for garbage collection in the Town of Greater Napanee have been a point of contention for a number of residents as the 2024 budget deliberations for the Town have continued throughout the past few months. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

On top of the already controversial $200 levy for garbage bag tags, Napanee residents can expect an average residential tax increase of 6.68 per cent in 2024.

The Council of the Town of Greater Napanee completed its budget deliberations for 2024 on Tuesday, Feb 20, 2024, with far less excitement than was seen at the last special budget meeting. Town staff presented the 2024 draft budget update to Council, including directions received at previous budget meetings held on November 16, 2023; December 6, 2023; and February 6, 2024. 

According to the update summary, some of the highlights of the 2024 budget will include:

  • Capital improvements of approximately $3 million, including $1.3 million in road work, $900,000 in fleet replacement, $440,000 in parks and facilities upgrades, and $50,000 to support the bunker gear replacement program (replacing personal protective equipment for firefighters)
  • Increased contributions to Municipal Reserves to promote fiscal stability 
  • Increased support for doctor recruitment and retention  
  • Support for a granular road maintenance program  
  • Provisions for bylaw enforcement support 

Before moving forward with the draft budget discussion, Council passed a motion to receive the Community Corporate Services Bay of Quinte Marketing Board Report and to support a one-year extension of the memorandum of understanding with the Board with the inclusion of $26,000 reserve funds in the budget for that purpose. Council further directed that a more fulsome review of marketing be undertaken later this year after the hiring of a new Chief Administrative Officer (CAO).

Next passed was the capital purchase of a new condenser for the Strathcona Paper Centre (SPC) arena. According to a staff report, the SPC condenser is now 20 years old and is listed in the draft capital budget for replacement in 2024. As Councillor Dave Pinnell pointed out, this is to be paid for with federal funding and will not affect the budget.

Further, as a result of the “significant deficiency” revealed by the 2022 Audited Financial Statements, Treasurer Ellen Hamel presented her Asset Management Financial Compliance report, asking Council to approve a 2024 budget commitment of $50,000 for asset management financial compliance.  She explained that these funds would make it possible to do the work needed to make the Town of Greater Napanee compliant with the auditor’s requirements and to position the Town for legislative compliance as it relates to Ontario Regulation 588/17 Asset Management Planning for Municipal Infrastructure and AROs (Asset Retirement Obligations). 

Hamel gave assurance that a future staff report would be presented once staff have completed a review and analysis of existing asset management solutions and the needs as related to the finance department, saying, “staff will not direct the use of those funds until such time that Council is provided further information.”  Council voted to commit the $50,000.

The Financial Services Department then presented the latest 2024 draft budget update report. As a result of the February 6, 2024 meeting, Council passed resolutions to include the purchase of an articulating boom lift for $65,000, to be funded by the 2024 tax levy; the purchase of a trackless snowplow at $300,000, to be funded by development charges; and an operating budget allocation for supplemental contracted bylaw enforcement, not to exceed $60,000, to be funded by the 2024 tax levy. 

According to the report, there was also a revenue increase of $100,000 to Protective Services since the last budget meeting. This was the result of a 2024 Court Security Prisoner Transportation grant allotted to the Town of Greater Napanee. 

The updated report notes that the total 2024 budget of $22 million provides funds to support local services such as road maintenance, policing, recreational programs, fire services, general governance, and more. These service priorities are set out in detail in the annual budget. 

Property taxes will need to account for $15.22 million of the total budget, with the remaining revenues coming from federal and provincial support, grants, user fees, and contributions from reserves. 

According to the treasurer, the Town’s 2024 property tax levy will increase by 7.88 per cent or $1.11 million from 2023, after considering the assessment increase due to new development and growth. 

Since the average residential property assessment (as per Municipal Property Assessment Corporation) in the Town of Napanee is $218,000, the Town’s portion of the property taxes on this assessment is $1,366.81 — meaning an average increase of 6.68 per cent, or $85.53, over 2023’s rate.

Councillor Michael Schenk requested some clarification based on this year’s average increase of $85.53 per property, saying, “Because you have the bag tax on top of that — might as well call it a tax — of $200, can I assume, then, that… we are almost at a 13 per cent tax increase? Do I understand that correctly?”

Deputy Treasurer Nathan Murphy said Schenk was correct “to some degree,” because the $200 levy is a fixed rate for all properties while the average increase of $85.53 is an average based on a per cent increase.

Councillor Bill Martin also asked for clarification: “So our average residential tax bill increase is $85.53 according to this. So then the cost of [garbage removal] levy is more than the average tax increase if you add that on. Is that correct?”

The Treasurer confirmed it was.

“So it’s $100 for the levy, but the average tax bill is $85.53 for everything else. Okay, I just wanted to get that straight. Everybody knows my feelings on the bag tag thing,” Martin went on, with a tone of irony.

“This whole thing doesn’t make any sense to me at all when we’re doing this with the tax levy on bag tags… But anyway, it is what it is. Figures don’t lie.”

Pinnell interjected, reminding Martin that the bag tag levy is $200 for 2024, not $100.

It should be noted that this only represents approximately 45 per cent of the property taxes paid by residential property owners because Napanee also collects taxes on behalf of the County of Lennox and Addington and the Province of Ontario (education taxes). 

Before the final vote to give public notice and bring the draft budget back for approval, Mayor Terry Richardson gave councillors a final opportunity to ask questions.

Pinnell asked if “a rant” would be acceptable instead of a question, and the mayor replied, “You’re more than welcome to, as long as it doesn’t drag on too long.”

Pinnell expressed his ongoing disappointment that no money would be allocated to the aquatics program the Town has been lacking now for over a decade, and he urged Council to make a plan in the next year on how to proceed. The Mayor asked him to “wrap up,” stating that there would be time to address his concerns in “about three years from now.”

After sharing that he “didn’t want to sound like a blowhard,” Schenk made a lengthy statement about road work, concluding that “the money is spent wisely; it is just [that] there is only so much we can do… I feel the pain, but I can justify why we are spending the money and what we are spending it on.”

Deputy Mayor Brian Calver stated, “nobody wants to see taxes go up; we want to see them go down. Unfortunately, in the world we’re in today, everybody wants, wants, wants, and those wants cost money.” He finished by thanking the Town staff for their good work on the budget, especially Hamel, who only moved into the position as a Town treasurer late in 2023.

Council then voted to receive the Financial Services 2024 Draft Budget Update report for information and directed the treasurer to bring forward the 2024 budget and present it at the Tuesday, Mar. 12, 2024, meeting of Council for final adoption following the required public notice. 

The vote carried, with only Pinnell opposed.

Meetings of the Council of the Town of Greater Napanee can be viewed virtually (or watched afterward) on the Napanee Town Council YouTube channel or attended in person in Council Chambers at Napanee Town Hall, 124 John Street. Further information about Council meetings, including agendas and reports, is available on the Town’s CivicWeb portal.

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