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Niagara Falls
Wednesday, April 17, 2024
Town approves $48M budget and 6.75% tax increase
Coun. Erwin Wiens questions taking money out of the parking reserves to offset tax increases. EVAN LOREE

After months of planning and debate, council voted Tuesday to approve the 2024 budget.

All in, property owners will be paying 6.75 per cent more in town taxes than they did in 2023. 

The levy increase will support a $48.5 million operating budget for the town, almost $16.1 million of which will come from tax revenue, said a report signed by three town staffers.

The rising cost is being driven by staff wage increases, five new hirings, rising insurance fees, high legal costs, increased capital funding and enhancements to recreational services, said the report.

The new positions include a mechanic, climate change co-ordinator, senior planner, policy co-ordinator and bylaw officer.

The report said initial quotes for the town’s insurance came in 27 per cent higher than they were in 2023.

“This increase is largely due to the town’s consistently high loss ratio related to general liability insurance claims, making it difficult to obtain favourable quotations,” it said.

Insurance rates also jumped 16 per cent in 2023.

Minerva Ward, president of NOTL Tourism and NOTL Chamber of Commerce, asked the town to make room in the budget for $67,935 in support of various festivals put on by the chamber.

NOTL Tourism, which markets the town to would-be tourists, is a subsidiary of the chamber.

Coun. Sandra O’Connor suggested the funding be denied and the saved costs, which would have come out of the parking coffers, be passed on to the taxpayer.

She said the chamber does not need additional town funding, as the town was already giving 50 per cent of the room tax revenue to NOTL Tourism for marketing purposes.

“Let them work within the (room tax) revenue they receive to fund their initiatives and not expect the residents to subsidize tourism promotion,” O’Connor said.

However, her peers were not interested in using the saved parking revenue to reduce operational costs charged to taxpayers.

Town treasurer Kyle Freeborn said what O’Connor suggested was “doable,” but “a bit of a risk.”

Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa put it well when he told The Lake Report it was not sustainable to offset taxes through the town’s supply of parking revenue.

O’Connor argued that is exactly what the town did in 2023 to reduce the impact of regional transit costs on municipal taxes.

Freeborn said the saved parking revenue would have reduced the

In the end, council decided not to fork out the $67,000 for NOTL Tourism.

Zalepa then quickly called the question and the budget was approved.

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