City land sales wouldn’t help 2018 budget: MacDonald

Councillor Mark A. MacDonald. (Cornwall Newswatch/File)

CORNWALL – While it may help in future budgets, Cornwall councillor Mark MacDonald doesn’t believe selling off any surplus city land will help the 2018 budget.

The city budget currently has a projected increase of nearly 6 per cent.

“I don’t know if what we’re going to do with the land is going to affect the budget this particular year,” MacDonald said in an interview with Cornwall Newswatch.

The budget committee met Monday afternoon in a closed session under the Ontario Municipal Act to talk about two reports regarding staffing costs and “surplus city-owned lands.”

“I think if we look at the long term of how we can use the land that we have to our best advantage, it might help us maybe next year or the year after but will it help us in the budget this year, I don’t think so, no,” MacDonald said.

The councillor sees a lot of potential and the city would be at “a great advantage” to look at all government services and how they interact. “You take some of the buildings – the police building or the fire building or some of the other buildings – just the technology that has changed since the 1970s.”

MacDonald envisions a campus or training facility where all the emergency departments would work together under one roof.

He also doesn’t see any relief for this year’s budget woes through dealing with city staffing. “I think we’re going to take a long term approach. In terms of any big moves, the only way is to make some big moves for the next year or two or three but in terms of the short term, no, I don’t see any.”

But will taxpayers be stuck with a 5.9 per cent increase?

“Right at this point, I don’t see us moving too much. We know we’re in a situation. I mean a 6 per cent tax hike is not good, everybody knows that. It’s not going to happen overnight, like some of the changes, so we have to take a long term approach, like our financial plan.”

“Our reserves have been underfunded. We haven’t been funding our police and firefighters the way we should have been over the years. There’s a number of things so we need to look at the long term.”

The budget committee will have a public meeting again on April 9 at 1 p.m. at city hall.