2018 Cornwall budget passes with 3.97% increase

Cornwall Coun. David Murphy makes his case to cut the contribution to a reserve fund for brownfield projects by $393,471 during a special council meeting Monday, April 30, 2018. The fund will still have around $200,000 to help firms with the development of contaminated sites within the city. The fund is expected to have a draw on it this year of $37,500. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – City councillors have passed the 2018 budget, which will see taxpayers shoulder a 3.97 per cent tax increase this year.

The budget committee was able to reduce its contribution to the brownfield reserve by $393,471, bringing the increase down from a 4.86 per cent increase.

The brownfield reduction was proposed by Coun. David Murphy and supported by the committee in a 6-5 vote.

Murphy believes it was a prudent move to bring the budget within the 4 per cent target.

“We’re still putting money into the reserve. It’s not like we’re taking it out, we’re not replenishing it,” Murphy said in an interview with Cornwall Newswatch.

The councillor said the brownfield fund “cupboard was bare” two years ago and the city has put $100,000 into the fund last year and $100,000 this year. The draw on the fund is estimated to be $40,000-$80,000 a year.

“My math tells me we’re good,” Murphy told Cornwall Newswatch.

He says the budget will be somewhat accepted at nearly 4 per cent. “At this time, because of where we were with the budget, closer to 5 per cent, nobody wanted to go there that I know of. Residents that I speak to didn’t want to go there. Now, under 4 per cent, when you talk to some they understand why. They’re not necessarily pleased. That being said, I’m still not happy with 3.97 per cent,” Murphy said.

The overall increase of 3.97 per cent will mean a residential ratepayer will pay an extra $55 a year on every $100,000 of municipal assessment.

The final vote on the budget was 8-3 with Couns. Maurice Dupelle, Mark MacDonald and David Murphy voting against.

“We’re Done”

Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy says the budget is done after a long process.

“We’re done and that’s the biggest thing. We’re going into May,” O’Shaughnessy told CNW, noting a question from Coun. Carilyne Hebert about how much money has been spent this year. City tenders have been approved and money has already been spent.

“Certainly 3.97 per cent. Hey, I don’t like it either. I don’t like the fact is that, people need to realize is, when council raises their taxes we also raise our own. Certainly, to bring it down from 7.6 down to 3.97, understanding the things that we’ve had to endure for the past three or four years – dwindling funding from the ministry. If you take our OMPF funding, we’re losing $800,000 a year,” O’Shaughnessy said.

“We’ve lost just too much money from senior levels of government,” the mayor told CNW. “The bad part…there’s no light at the end of the tunnel,” suggesting those governments are running big deficits and won’t be in a position to help municipalities for quite some time.

O’Shaughnessy says the city has “routinely” tried to keep taxes “a low as possible” and now it’s been “catching up with us too.” He suggests the city will get over the hump and will be able to budget in the future for an inflationary increase plus one per cent for capital work, much like the City of Kingston has done.

O’Shaughnessy says the city will need to “bite the bullet” for the next couple of years but he is encouraged the Ontario and federal governments have recently signed a new infrastructure funding agreement, which would alleviate some budget pressure.