Passing Cornwall budget could turn on city department merger proposal

In this Dec., 2014 file photo, Coun. Mark MacDonald listens to a water and sewer budget presentation. (Cornwall Newswatch/File)

CORNWALL – With no notable movement on the bottom line of the 2018 Cornwall budget over the last couple of weeks, a proposal from Coun. Mark MacDonald could be the turning point in getting this year’s budget passed.

During the last special council meeting on April 16, the budget was defeated in a 5-5 tie. The 4.86 per cent increase would add an extra $67 this year on every $100,000 of assessed value on a Cornwall home.

Mark MacDonald was away during that meeting but he is expected to be at this afternoon’s (Monday) meeting, leaving him as the swing vote, unless other councillors change their stance.

With next to no change in the budget and even adding expenditures last week with a $50,000 yearly commitment to the Cornwall Innovation Center for the next 10 years, fiscal conservatives on council are not likely to sway.

In an email to councillors and the mayor on Thursday (April 26), MacDonald says he’s prepared to vote for the budget “as is, with one condition.”

That condition is to have the City of Cornwall create a public safety division, which would amalgamate police, fire, bylaw and paramedics into one department.

“Empirical data shows a disproportionate rate of growth in the budget for our emergency services,” MacDonald wrote. “The overall emergency services budgets will be reduced by 5% per year, for the next four year (20% total).”

MacDonald says the proposal would need to be the “necessary mandatory requirements of all provincial standards and associations regulations.”

The special council budget meeting starts at 4 p.m. Monday (April 30).