The county has approved its budget for 2016, and residents will now only be facing a 1.9 per cent levy increase as opposed to the originally proposed 3.6 per cent increase.
The significant drop can be attributed to council making some significant cuts, such as dropping the proposed CEMC Shared Services to provide emergency management services to local area municipalities, as well as choosing to fund some items from reserve. The decrease will save the taxpayers a good chunk of change, as the original 3.6 per cent general levy increase would have cost an additional $18 per year for the average Oxford County household.
County CAO Peter Crockett said he didn't know what the dollar amount of the new increase would be, just that it would be lower than the previously proposed increases.
"It was a combination of the CEMC item that was removed, which had already been somewhat funded through reserves, so that was a rather minor piece," Crockett said. "The more significant change was the application of some reserve funds to offset the levy increase."
Crockett said reserve funds that were projected surplus for 2015 - an estimated $372,810 - had been applied as revenue for 2016, lowering the levy increase significantly.
Another item that had been amended into the budget last minute during Wednesday's council meeting was put forward by Coun. Trevor Birtch, asking that the county add $280,000 in grant form for the Woodstock Police Services Board as a one time budget item, for the purpose of court security costs. This will bring the total dollar amount of grants being given out by the county to $554,500 (full list of grants below).
Warden David Mayberry said he was fairly happy with the final budget, saying no one wants an increase but if they want to keep moving ahead they're going to have to.
"I think council was aiming to reduce from the 3.6 to somewhere less than that, and I think there was kind of a range in thought to get it somewhere between 1.5 and 2.5. And bringing it just under 2 per cent is probably what council expected," Mayberry said. "It means that we will take more money out of reserves than was anticipated by staff, but reserves are really tax dollars that people put in yesterday or last year that are there to be used at some point for specific purposes. So council looked carefully at those things and decided that there were things that should have been funded from reserves, (while) at the same time trying to help people by keeping the tax levy as low as possible."
2016 Grants Agricultural
Awards of Excellence -$2,000
Economic Development - Area Municipal SOMA Members -$25,000
Physician Recruitment -$25,000 Tillsonburg Airport -$5,000
Stratford General Hospital -$40,000
South Central Ontario Region (SCOR) Action Plan -$35,000
Oxford Creative Connections -$50,000
Social Planning Council Oxford -$55,000
Oxford Workforce Development Partnership -$24,500
Oxford Invitational Youth Robotic Challenge -$5,000
Woodstock Collegiate Institute - Taiwanese Student Hosting -$8,000
(Added) Woodstock Police Service Board - court security cost -$280,000
Grant total: $554,500