The municipality of Franklin adopted a balanced budget during a special meeting on January 23 that includes an ambitious three-year capital spending plan while freezing taxes at 2022 rates.
“The municipal council has presented a balanced and responsible budget that takes into account the current economic environment and the ability of citizens to pay,” says director general Simon St-Michel, noting the residential, commercial, industrial, and agricultural tax rates remain the same as last year.
St-Michel affirms that contrary to most municipalities across the province, taxes are going down in 2023 in Franklin. He says the average property valuations in Franklin have gone down from $224,613 in 2022 to $223,071 in 2023. “This results in a decrease in the residential tax bill for 2023 while the tax rate, which we froze, remains unchanged from 2022 ($0.66 per $100 of assessment),” he explains. Overall, the variation in the municipal tax bill compared to last year represents a decrease of 0.67 per cent.
A group of residents referring to themselves as Citoyens Avertis Engagés maintains more could have been done to reduce the tax rate. They continue to decry the steep increase in taxes that took place in 2022, suggesting that even with this year’s measures in place, Franklin residents are still paying on average over 27 per cent more in taxes than in 2021.
Three-year capital spending plan
Along with the tax rate, the budget features investments totaling over $5.23 million over the next three years, in thirteen major projects in areas such as residual waste collection, wastewater treatment, road maintenance, public security, and recreation.
A pilot project will be implemented in the fall of 2023 to reduce the amount of waste collected within the municipality. Changes to the collection schedule for residual waste and recycling will come into effect, while composting will be prioritized. Franklin will provide a standardized bin for waste collection to all residents. Domestic composters and kitchen bins will also be provided to those interested in reducing the amount of waste disposed in garbage bins.
The municipality is working on an agreement with a nearby ecocentre to dispose of other types of residual or unused materials. The three-year capital spending program also sets aside funds for the creation of an ecocentre in Franklin. In a press release, St-Michel says the municipality is currently assessing the various properties it owns to determine an appropriate site while looking into the building requirements for this type of infrastructure. A total of $150,000 over three years has been budgeted for the project.
The intensive road repair program within the municipality will continue with an investment of over $801,810 in 2023, with total costs over three years expected to top $1.3 million. St-Michel notes the municipality is receiving various government grants to help cover these expenses.
New breathing apparatuses (SCBA) will be purchased for the volunteer fire department this year at a cost of $208,000. The investment, which will see the replacement of outdated equipment, will be financed by a borrowing bylaw.
A new water park will be installed in Antoine-Labelle Park, with construction scheduled to begin in 2024. A total of $250,000 has been budgeted for this expense. An improvement project to increase the capacity of the wastewater treatment facility is also in the works. According to St-Michel, the municipality plans to use a grant to reimburse more than 75 per cent of the costs associated with the project, which aims to allow more homes to be connected to the municipal sewer system. A $2.5 million investment is planned for 2025.
The budget also reveals plans to create a public park and nature reserve on forested municipal land located not far from Route 201 near the Franklin Motocross site. St-Michel says the park will include walking trails in the summer as well as snowshoe and cross-country ski trails in the winter. “We hope to be in a position to open the park to citizens by the summer of 2024,” he says, noting the municipal council is excited by the project, which is expected to cost $50,000 over two years starting in 2024.