Budget committee turns down long term tax limit

(Newswatch Group/File)

CORNWALL – A returning councillor from the Kilger administration failed to get the administration to sign on to a long term tax increase goal.

Coun. Elaine MacDonald with the aid of Coun. Claude McIntosh was asking for an overall 10 per cent increase over the four year term. She also wanted tax increases to not exceed the cost of living (inflation) in any given year and doesn’t want service levels cut during the term.

“This would give us flexibility and give us a chance to give a long view,” MacDonald said.

Former Mayor Bob Kilger had set a similar long term road map for tax increases during his tenure, keeping tax hikes below eight per cent during his four years in power.

Right now, the budget committee is looking at a 3.68 per cent tax increase or an extra $83 a year on a $160,000 residential property.

But MacDonald failed to get her a majority of her counterparts on board.

Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy believes the budget committee will be able to trim the budget to two per cent and, coming from 5.68 per cent, will be an accomplishment. The mayor, who voted against the motion, says if the city cuts costs it’s going to affect services. “I think we have to be cautious as sticking a percentage.” The mayor believes more will be mapped out during the city council’s strategic session.

Coun. David Murphy agreed with O’Shaughnessy the move is premature. “Somebody may happen where we have to spend money…this would tie us with no options. I think it’s too soon,” Murphy said.

Coun. Maurice Dupelle also thought the move was too soon.

Coun. Mark MacDonald “we have the opportunity to be great but we have to come together as a group. It’s the opposite of what we should be doing. Do not vote in favour of this motion – it sets the wrong course.”

“We’re on the verge of financial collapse. The course that we’re on cannot be sustained,” MacDonald said. The maverick councillor later conceded that “collapse” may have been too strong of a work.

Coun. Andre Rivette said the motion “is not accurate enough” as city taxpayers also face increases to water and sewer rates. “Let’s make sure we’re transparent.”

CAO Norm Levac says the capital and operating budgets and the water and sewer budgets are treated as two separate budget exercises.

Coun. Claude McIntosh points to the mayor of Ottawa as an example where a limit can be set for each year.

Here’s how the budget committee voted:

Claude McIntosh – yes
Elaine MacDonald – yes
Brock Frost – absent
Maurice Dupelle – no
Leslie O’Shaugnessy – no
Mark MacDonald – no
Andre Rivette – no
Carilyne Hebert – yes
Justin Towndale – no
David Murphy – no
Bernadette Clement – abstained

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