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Two, four, six, eight . . . what’s the new taxing rate?

The tax picture in Fort Erie is still very fuzzy and it won’t come into focus until March when the operations budget is struck, but a sizable increase is inevitable.

Before any new spending is tallied, Treasurer Jonathan Janzen reported in December that the Town would need 2.75 per cent more to maintain services at the 2014 level. This is what the Town calls “base budget”.

Recommendations to increase the budget to fund tax write-offs and build up infrastructure reserves add another $700,000 to raise the increase to six per cent.

Every $215,000 in spending equates to a one per cent hike on tax bills.

Not included in the report is a request from the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium for $500,000 to subsidize racetrack operations.

Other requests are filtering in: Communities-in-Bloom wants $35,000 in staff time commitments; the District School Board is looking for a long-term commitment of $3.5 million for a shared library and theatre for its new high school; $75,000 is sought for a master plan for the waterfront and Bay Beach.

A byelection is expected to cost $42,000. And no provision has been made to fund election compliance audits, should there be any complaints.

More requests are bound to be made.

The single heaviest impact on the Town’s base budget is the loss of $200,000 in revenue from bingo licencing with the implementation of electronic bingo.

Assuming the 2014 budget of $355,000 in fees was on target, bingo operations are now a net loss to the Town considering four staff are employed in the Community Gaming Development Corporation.

An unconditional grant from the Province called Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund increases by $179,000, this is offset in losses in other areas.

The Ontario Municipal Exchange, which until last year had been the Town’s insurance provider for nearly 10 years, wants $113,000 in supplemental payment. The Town opted for the OMEX system because it was a better deal then, but it didn’t turn out that way, and the switch back to a private insurance company was made last year.

The Workplace Safety Insurance Board wants $60,000 for increased municipal costs for workplace safety.

Facility revenues, specifically the arenas, are expected to decline $47,000.

Wages and benefits are going up $28,000 more than had been foreseen last year when estimates included the two per cent across-the-board increase for union and non-union staff.

Provincial Offences Act revenue will decline $16,625 — presumably to help pay for better court services in Welland, Niagara Falls and St. Catharines, but close operations in Fort Erie.

The Town will receive $8,000 less funding for transit.

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