SD&G opts for 1.2% tax rate increase to repair roads

County CFO Vanessa Metcalfe explains a section of the budget to county councillors Feb. 16, 2016 during the first day of budget deliberations. Council agreed to add just over $1 million into the budget to largely address roads. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

SD&G – The county council for SD&G has decided to add just over a million dollars to its 2016 budget – primarily for roads.

That will mean the average homeowner with a property valued at $194,000 will pay an extra $13.50 on the county portion of their yearly bill. But that number will vary slightly based on the municipal assessment value of the home.

Council started Tuesday looking at an overall decrease in the tax rate of 1.6 per cent or an $18 reduction on the average residential tax bill.

The county had planned on collecting $40,934,908 in taxes this year (tax levy) – $23,526 less than in 2015.

But a majority of councillors decided Tuesday to go with their traditional cost-of-living increase to the budget (1.2 per cent), collecting another $1,193,000 in taxes this year.

Most of that will be put into roads, a department that represents almost half of all spending at the county level.

These are the items added to the 2016 budget:

  • $75,000 for an emergency generator at the Finch Patrol Garage, which will also act as an off-site headquarters for the United Counties in times of disaster
  • $374,000 to repave 410 meters (1,345 feet) of County Road 46 from MacDonald to County Road 34.
  • $453,000 to repave 2,060 meters (6,758 feet) of County Road 15 from the railway crossing to Elm Road.
  • $200,000 to upgrade Upper Canada Road (pending a road swap with South Dundas)
  • $10,000 for a road de-icing unit (part of a trial run for winter road maintenance)
  • $71,000 for an engineering study to build a roundabout at the intersection of County Road 1 and County Road 2 in Iroquois.
  • $10,000 for safety improvements at intersection of County Roads 43 and County Road 7

Warden Jamie MacDonald had advocated for a zero per cent increase but wasn’t able to convince his counterparts to support his vision.

“Obviously, that’s why we’re a council and it’s a democracy so they wanted to go to that 1.2 (per cent increase). I always believed that we had an opportunity to do a zero this year with the extra money we had from the (savings in) policing,” the warden said.

“We have done very well with the added assessments we’ve been getting. It’s not like we’re at zero and not moving forward. We’re getting that extra money from assessment, but I understand where they’re coming from. We have a lot of needs … a lot of roads … so it’s not like we’re adding it into staffing, it’s into our infrastructure,” MacDonald said.

“Good infrastructure makes for good business. I think it’s a good budget and I think everyone will be happy with the amount of resurfacing and roads we’re getting done.”

In addition to the roads added today, there’s another $8.7 million in paving scheduled for 2016.

The 2016 budget still needs to be adopted formally through a council resolution but nothing is likely to change Wednesday when the meeting reconvenes at 9 a.m.

The county will hear from Cornwall’s shared services departments: Cornwall and Area Social Housing, EMS and Glen-Stor-Dun Lodge. The Eastern Ontario Health Unit will also make a presentation.

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