Before the slicing and dicing begins Monday night (Jan. 16), the Town of Halton Hills budget committee got its first look Tuesday at the 2006 operating budget calling for a $50 increase in taxes on homes assessed at $300,000Halton Hills Finance director Ed DeSousa presents the Town's 2006 operating and capital budget to the budget committee (all members of council). Staff is recommending the Town increase its budget ($20.4 million) over last year's by 5 per cent (a 3 per cent increase plus two per cent dedicated solely to the pavement improvement program). Budget committee will also consider an additional 1 per cent Town considers 5 per cent tax hike ($190,000) in staff-recommended additions during the next few nights set aside for budget debates: Jan. 16, Jan. 17, Jan. 30 and Jan. 31. Monday night (January 16) has been set aside for public delegations on the budget, while Jan. 31, at the request of Mayor Rick Bonnette, has been designated as a discussion night on the future of the Town's two library branches. Last year, council approved a 3.8 per cent tax hike plus the additional 2 per cent dedicated to a pavement improvement fund. This translated into a $48 increase on tax bills for the average homeowner with a house assessed at $250,000. This year Halton Region moved to a new figure of $300,000 for the average assessed home, and the Town of Halton Hills followed suit. If the current budget were approved with no change-- which is unlikely-- Halton Hills taxpayers (with homes assessed at $300,000) would be facing a total tax bill of $3,367 for Town, Region and education taxes. This $100 tax increase ($50 for the Town, $50 for the Region and no change to education taxes) represents an overall 3.1 per cent increase (or $33 per $100,000 of assessed value). The 2006 operating budget includes only the costs necessary to continue the operation of departments or programs previously approved by council. No additional staffing has been included with the exception of three building permit staff covered under new provincial legislation and four part-time firefighters for the future Georgetown South fire station. This budget, so far, does not include any new equipment purchases or expansion of existing programs. Staff also proposes a $10.5 million capital budget with the top projects being: the Georgetown South fire station ($1.2 million), pavement management program roadwork ($1.1 million), Fifth Line N. realignment ($1 million), East-west tributary rehabilitation ($800,000), Eastern Ave. reconstruction ($500,000), Trafalgar Rd. Sports Park ($500,000), and Acton Sports Park ($500,000). While the nine-year Capital Forecast (2007-2015) proposes to spend $67 million in capital works, DeSousa noted that there are $67 million of wish-list projects still looking for funding.