City Council has their work cut out for them with the 2013 budget. The preliminary budget was tabled last night by CAO David Creery at a starting tax levy increase of 5.07%. That would be an extra $35.00 on the average home worth $203,000. 40% of that increase comes from $815,000 worth of increases from the police and fire department budgets. Mayor Pat Sobeski says it's a common theme across the region. "Looking at other communities...they seem to be facing the same pressures...police and fire budgets are dominating most councils. One of the main reasons is that 90% of their costs are salary and benefits, and their wage increases have been in the 3% range, where city staff have been less than that." Also driving up the budget is writing off $550,000 in unpaid taxes and interest from the former owners of the Reg Hall Building, and the Tecumseh St. property the city just acquired. CAO David Creery explained to Heart FM, "There were two properties that council vested in 2012, Tecumseh St. and 495 Dundas St. and the effect of that is the tax penalties and interest is now off of the tax roll." Those taxes weren't likely to be collected anyhow. There was some good news from Director of Administrative Services, Patrice Hilderly. The education tax rate is in early, and shows a decrease in Woodstock by over 4%. However, the savings for the average household will be a marginal 49-cents. But this is only the start of the budget process. Council will begin hearing individual budgets from each department head next week. At the next city council meeting on February 7th, the Police and Library Board budgets will be tabled. And there will be other optional meetings between now and February 21st, where council is aiming to finalize the budget.