The town of Farnham released its 2022 budget this December. It may not have been the holiday gift taxpayers were hoping for, however, as property taxes are expected to rise by an average of 12 per cent.
In line with regional trends, property values rose in over the past year: residential property values went up by an average of 17.2 per cent (as much as 28 per cent in some areas, according to Mayor Patrick Melchior), buildings with multiple housing units by 15.2 per cent, farm buildings by 30 per cent, nonresidential buildings by 19.2 per cent and industrial buildings by 12.16 per cent. “We don’t determine property values, and we know that the pandemic has led to a significant upswing in property values because a lot of houses have been sold, and sold at a sharply increased price,” said Melchior.
This explains why the average tax bill is expected to increase, even though taxation rates decreased slightly (from $0.80 to $0.77 per $100 of value on single residences, from $0.811 to $0.79 on buildings with multiple housing units and from $1.84 to $1.73 on commercial buildings). Melchior announced plans to freeze taxation rates at 2022 levels for the next two years.
The budget was calculated based on revenues of just under $18.6 million and expenses of $15.9 million. The mayor explained that more than 60 per cent of the town’s revenue came from taxes. Data provided by the city showed that public safety costs rose by nearly 19 per cent, transport and urban planning costs by more than 12 per cent and culture and recreation costs by more than 14 per cent. “Costs have exploded from everywhere, whether it’s gas or asphalt or anything else, as you’ve seen if you’ve done any work on your houses lately. City projects are no exception; we’re feeling the pinch,” said the mayor, explaining why council did not decide on more significant rate decreases. User fees for town utilities will remain the same, except for fees for septic tank emptying, which will rise by 6.67 per cent.
Planned major infrastructure projects include a major overhaul of the sewer and water lines on Rue Jacques-Cartier ($10.58 million, partially paid by a joint fund overseen by the provincial and federal governments), the prolongation of Rue Donahue in the industrial sector near a future biomethanization plant ($1.37 million) and more than $3 million in improvements to water treatment, including a UV filtration system and the replacement of the main water intake at the water filtration plant. The town will also invest $83,300 in the ongoing downtown revitalization project and $13,000 in a new scoreboard for the town baseball field.
“We hope – knock on wood – to organize some [cultural activities] this year that have been cancelled in the last two years due to the pandemic,” Melchior added. “Ensuring that people maintain physical distancing and making sure there’s hand sanitizer in place also costs money. Much of the increase in culture [expenses] is the city adding back in things that were taken out in previous years.”