Budget goes to council with 4.86% increase

A projector screen inside the Cornwall council chambers shows the final breakdown for the 2018 budget on Monday, April 9, 2018. The budget committee was able to bring in a lower tax increase through borrowing $561,000. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – The city will be going to bank in order to bring in a lower tax increase this year for Cornwall ratepayers.

The budget committee reduced the increase from 5.9 per cent to 4.86 per cent on Monday afternoon, by borrowing money for a number of projects instead of immediately paying for them through the tax base.

They include: $63,000 for the Lemay Street extension, $300,000 for traffic signals, $100,000 for pole replacements, $25,000 for video surveillance at Cornwall Transit and $73,000 to upgrade the city’s email system from Lotus Notes to Outlook.

The budget will also see $99,000 applied from last year’s surplus.

For taxpayers, it will mean roughly $112 more in 2018 for a person with a home assessed at $167,000.

Coun. Elaine MacDonald says the borrowing is just “kicking the can down the road” for future taxpayers and council. “(The) challenge doesn’t go away…(it’s) not a logical thing to do.”

“I’m okay with how we got there,” Coun. David Murphy told Cornwall Newswatch. “I just think there were other opportunities that council didn’t use. There were motions being made — and I’m not being bitter — to cut different things. They didn’t get passed, we move forward. I will not be voting for 4.86 per cent. I’m not sure if I’ll be the only one not voting,” Murphy said.

The councillor, who has his sights on the mayor’s seat, says the city needs to take wider look at ability to pay. “We always talk about the city’s ability to pay when we go to arbitration. Well, it’s the same thing for the taxpayer.”

“I think we’re borrowing too much,” budget chairman Denis Carr said in an interview with Newswatch. “I’m not big on borrowing when you don’t have to.”

Carr is concerned this one-time borrowing of $561,000 might be a long term practice. “That’s the whole thing you have to worry about. That’s the solution every time (borrowing) and that’s a mistake. How do you run your household, the same way? You can only have what you can afford.”

The city is currently paying about $4.5 million a year to service its debt and that is projected to increase to $5.5 million in 2019. Based on calculation by administration, the city could handle up to $10 million a year in debt servicing commitments.

The city has borrowed roughly $40 million to date.

The budget will come up for final approval during a special council meeting on Monday, April 16, 2018 at 5 p.m.