A last-minute addition to the 2013 budget approved by Brantford city council on Monday nudged the residential tax rate increase to 3.57 per cent, up from 3.53 per cent at the close of the estimates committee process on Jan. 29.
In a 6-4 vote and after some debate over the wisdom of adding to the operating budget when city services are on the chopping block, council voted to approve $41,326 to turn a part-time health and safety specialist position set to expire in May into a full-time position.
The addition means the overall budget increase from last year is 2.32 per cent, still under council's stated target of 2.36 per cent.
The final multi-residential tax rate increase is 4.54 per cent, with the commercial rate rising 4.83 per cent. The industrial tax rate will fall 6.77 per cent.
The city's manager of health, wellness and safety, Jill Thompson, explained that the full-time health and safety specialist position – which council had previously voted not to fund before it returned to the floor on Monday – is needed so that there are no gaps in the city's ability to get injured workers back on the job and reduce Workplace Safety and Insurance Board claims.
“This is legislation – we can't just ignore it and pretend it doesn't exist,” Thompson said when providing the rationale for retaining a full-time health and safety specialist to ensure compliance with provincial labour laws.
“This is an extremely important position” that will address employee safety and workplace absences “which have a huge cost to the city,” Kings said.
The budget approved on Monday means the average homeowner's property tax bill will rise by about $91 in 2013.
Councillors Dan McCreary and John Utley voted against the amended budget, as they did during at the final estimates meeting after several cuts suggested by McCreary were rejected by his fellow councillors. Coun. Dave Wrobel did not attend Monday's meeting.