LaSalle residents could be facing the largest property tax increase next year that they've had in decades.

The town's treasurer laid out a preliminary look at expenditures and revenues Tuesday night, that shows the town is looking at having to make up a $883,000 dollar shortfall.

If no changes are made, that would result in a tax increase of 2.94 per cent.

Mayor Ken Antaya said some of the cost increases the town is facing can be attributed to the province's proposed Bill 148, which includes hikes to the minimum wage and new pay equity rules.

"We have a composite fire department for example," explained Antaya. "If we have volunteers start showing up at fires that they are required to attend, then we also have to start paying them the same as what a full-time firefighter is making."

He said town council will do all it can to keep the tax increase to a minimum.

Town treasurer Joe Milicia said the tax increase is far from being a sure thing. He said, for example, town councillors could use reserve money to cushion the blow.

"Over the last decade we've done a really good job of keeping increases at less than the inflationary rate. I think our ratepayers are expecting that and we are going to do our best to provide that to them," said Milicia.

But Antaya said residents understand that in order to keep the same level of service, they have to expect some increases in taxes.

"You can do it bit by bit, year by year or you say 'we'll take care of it next year' and then it mounts up and all of a sudden you've got an avalanche," said Antaya.

The budget is far from finalized, but if no changes are made, the increase would add about $25 to the tax bill on a $200,000 dollar house.

Milicia would like to see the province pass Bill 148 soon so he can accurately predict the impact on the town.

Councillors won't be making any final decisions on the budget until December.

By Dale Molnar