Financial pressures pushing tax hike

Lake Country officials insist they won’t be able to meet all demands if taxes are to be kept low.

Lake Country officials insist they won’t be able to meet all demands if taxes are to be kept low.

Council reviewed the proposed 2011 budget Tuesday. The document is calling for a four per cent tax increase or an additional $55 for the average home.

“We looked at various options under four per cent but it doesn’t leave much for our infrastructure deficit,” said Mayor James Baker.

“Various departments have things that need to be done. If not done this year, subsequent councils may have to look at a six or seven per cent lift in taxes.”

According to Coun. Noreen Guenther, there is significant financial pressure on council.

“Inflation is 2.4 per cent and we have contractual commitments at 2.8 per cent like RCMP personnel,” she said.

“I’d like to see it (tax rate) go down but I’m not sure if that’s possible.”

For Guenther, a major issue that must be addressed is aging infrastructure like roads and water and sewer lines.

“If we don’t deal with it, we’re just dumping it on to our kids,” she said.

“This year we’ve had four water main breaks so that indicates things are serious.”

There are also external pressures behind municipal operations.

“A lot of community groups are looking for help,” said Guenther.

“We will make to make some tough decisions regarding those.”

The Lake Country Art Gallery is seeking $10,000 to hire a part-time curator while the Lake Country Chamber of Commerce has requested $20,000 to hire a seasonal visitor centre manager. The Lake Country Museum has applied for $10,000 to offset operating losses following the hiring of a part-time manager.

Several grants are also being sought from community groups including the Lake Country Senior Bus Society and the Reach Out Youth Counselling and Family Services Society.

Council will take another look at the proposed budget Feb. 3, and Baker says the municipality is well aware of the financial challenges facing many residents.

“People don’t have a lot of money and we’re trying to keep the budget as bare bones as possible,” he said.