Cornwall budget priorities geared to self-promotion, brownfield development

In this Wednesday, June 8, 2016 photo, Cornwall city councillors and staff start planning for the 2017 budget during a meeting at the OPG St. Lawrence Power Development Visitor Center. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – The city’s councillors have already started out on the road to setting the 2017 municipal budget.

During a special council meeting Wednesday afternoon at the OPG St. Lawrence Power Development Visitor Center, councillors reviewed their strategic plan and spent the better part of a half-day setting priorities and developing action programs.

By the look of how councillors voted, the session more-or-less solidified much of what the city is already doing with some suggestions on more self-promotion.

In opening the meeting, Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy questioned whether the criteria should be set ahead of next year on the outside agency funding, such as the museum and tourism.

“Good that we start that early but we are not going to finish that early,” Coun. Elaine MacDonald said, suggesting the city can set its spending priorities but senior levels of government don’t set their annual budgets until April.

“The real work starts now. What we do now is going to make or break this council. We need a long term financial plan,” Coun. Mark MacDonald said in suggesting a five, ten and 15 year plan for the corporation.

But the meeting quickly turned to a long discussion for nearly a half hour speaking about value for taxes in the United Counties compared to the City of Cornwall.

“I fundamentally believe the taxes are higher than the counties and why Cornwall is not able to rise about that 50,000 mark (population),” Mark MacDonald said. “We may have to go into some uncharted territory….sharing services.”

“It’s really hard to compare property taxes in the township compared to the city,” Coun. Claude McIntosh argued. He said city police are on scene of a crime within minutes but “in the counties you might be waiting 45 minutes.”

With St. Lawrence College facilitator Greg Libitz taking over the meeting, councillors and staff then went over priorities as it relates to the strategic plan.

“Strategy should drive the budget. These are the priorities we’ve developed (and the budget should follow them),” Libitz said.

Using a series of coloured stickers (green meaning a top priority and yellow a secondary priority) councillors then chose what was important for the upcoming year.

Future waterfront development and developing an arts center topped the quality of life category.

Partnership for regional economic growth and developing a long term financial plan topped the economic and financial category.

When it came to the environment, infill and brownfield development was a clear priority among most councillors.

As for the governance and administration of the city, customer service and complaint tracking as well as self-promoting the city took top marks.

“This is very helpful. If you don’t tie the strategic plan to the budget, it means nothing,” Coun. Bernadette Clement.

The afternoon session cost around $4,500 for the consultant from St. Lawrence College, which included organizing and running the meeting, as well as preparing a final report on the strategic priorities for the city.

Click on a picture below to open a gallery of photos showing how council voted on the priorities for the city in 2017. Green is a top priority vote and yellow is a secondary priority vote.