County raising taxes 5%

by Chad Ingram

Published March 28 2017

The following are brief reports of items discussed during a March 22 meeting of Haliburton County council.

Councillors passed the 2017 budget which includes total spending of $21.6 million $15.5 million of it to be levied from taxation. That represents a 6.24 per cent increase over last year’s tax levy and will result in a 4.86 per cent rate tax increase. That equates to an increase of $9.19 per $100000 of assessment for residential properties and $13.63 per $100000 of assessment for occupied commercial properties.

As always the roads department budget is by far the largest departmental budget at approximately $6.5 million. Health services will cost approximately $3.2 million and social services approximately $1.8 million. General government which includes everything from administrative salaries to IT services to council to building and miscellaneous expenses totals about $2.4 million.

About $830000 is budgeted for the Haliburton County Public Library $400000 in the tourism department approximately $370000 for the planning department and about $110000 for protective services (this includes bylaw and 911 expenses).

Salaries and benefits will increase by one per cent in 2017 with salaries and benefits comprising 41 per cent of total budgeted expenses.

Circulation continues to climb at library

Circulation at the Haliburton County Public Library was 164729 items strong in 2016 up from 160495 the year prior according to an annual report from library staff.  About 15700 of those items were digital ones. More than 7300 people attended programs and events and more than 16570 accessed the Internet using public access computers. The library’s website had more than 24000 visits and the library was mentioned in the media 936 times.

“We’re really lucky in a small town to have local media radio and newspapers” said Dysart et al Deputy-reeve Andrea Roberts as library CEO Bessie Sullivan presented the report. “We get a lot of publicity locally.”

Provincial library funding in Ontario has been largely frozen for a number of years and some libraries throughout Canada are experiencing cuts.

While the library’s annual report often comes off as a success story “libraries have to stop saying what they do well but say what they’re missing” Sullivan said. “Yes we do a good job but I can tell you we’re missing a lot.”

Algonquin Highlands Reeve Carol Moffatt mentioned that some cities are beginning to experiment with “staffless” libraries. “There are things you can do where you deliver library services without people” Sullivan said but added she thought the idea of an unstaffed room where people congregate constituted a major public safety risk.

Plus she said the job of staff is to help people find the services they’re seeking.

“Staffing is a huge part of our budget for a reason” Sullivan said. “It’s a service. It’s connecting your users to services.”

Flag policy

Council adopted a policy governing the flying flags at half-staff outside the county administration building on Newcastle Street in Minden.

In addition to the deaths of members of the royal family governors general or former governors general the prime minister or former prime ministers the premier or former premier or lieutenant governor or former lieutenant governors flags shall also be flown at half-staff upon the death of a riding MP or former MP riding MPP or former MPP any current or former member of Haliburton County council or any of its lower tier councils or current county employees.

“In the last couple of months we’ve had staff members pass away” said chief administrative officer Mike Rutter. “We really felt it was important a policy be developed so we have a standard set of rules.”

Warden Brent Devolin said having a policy in place would make situations easier for future staff and councillors so they’re not making subjective decisions on the matter.