Uni­ted Coun­ties coun­cil pon­ders 2017 draft bud­get

Le Reflet (The News) - - ACTUALITÉS | NEWS - GREGG CHAMBERLAIN gregg.chamberlain@eap.on.ca

Un­less there are some se­rious changes de­man­ded in the 2017 bud­get pro­po­sed by the coun­ties, Pres­cott-Rus­sell re­si­dents may see a small in­crease in their pro­per­ty tax bills next year. The coun­ties have en­joyed ze­ro tax rate hikes in past bud­get plans but this time there will be a small in­crease in the tax rate des­pite the cost­cut­ting ef­forts of ad­mi­nis­tra­tion and staff.

“There are no se­rious cuts to this bud­get at this point,” said Sté­phane Pa­ri­sien, chief ad­mi­nis­tra­tor for the Uni­ted Coun­ties of Pres­cott-Rus­sell (UCPR), during pre­sen­ta­tion of the 2017 pre­li­mi­na­ry bud­get re­port at the Oct. 26 re­gu­lar ses­sion.

The UCPR bud­get pro­po­sed for next year, bar­ring any dras­tic changes, to­tals $102,646,200, about $1.5 mil­lion more than the 2016 bud­get. That to­tal in­cludes a mu­ni­ci­pal le­vy of $40,935,800, which the UCPR must col­lect in pro­per­ty taxes to pay for all ope­ra­tion and ca­pi­tal works ex­penses not co­ve­red through pro­vin­cial and fe­de­ral grants and sub­si­dies and other sources of re­ve­nue for next year.

Next year’s pro­po­sed coun­ties bud­get fi­gure re­pre­sents a two-per cent in­crease in the ove­rall tax rate. For the ave­rage ho­meow­ner in Pres­cott-Rus­sell with a house and pro­per­ty va­lued at $100,000, that means about a $16 in­crease to the coun­ties’ share of their pro­per­ty tax bill. Com­mer­cial, in­dus­trial, agri­cul­tu­ral and other pro­per­ty ow­ners will al­so see in­creases to their tax bills, de­pen­ding on what the ap­pro­ved rate is for their class of pro­per­ty.

Pro­per­ty tax bills re­present all of the mu­ni­ci­pal and other lo­cal go­vern­ment pro­per­ty tax claims. That in­cludes town, coun­ties, re­le­vant school dis­tricts, and other go­vern­ment agen­cies. One fac­tor that al­so de­ter­mines whe­ther or not pro­per­ty ow­ners see much or any change in their tax bills is whe­ther or not the va­lue of their land and/or buil­dings has in­crea­sed or de­crea­sed ba­sed on the an­nual as­sess­ment by the On­ta­rio Mu­ni­ci­pal Pro­per­ty As­sess­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (MPAC). That pro­vin­cial agen­cy does re­gu­lar eva­lua­tions of pro­per­ty va­lues throu­ghout the pro­vince and pro­vides the in­for­ma­tion for lo­cal go­vern­ments to de­ter­mine the fi­nal tax bills mai­led out each spring.

Un­less there are se­rious changes made to ei­ther the ope­ra­tions or ca­pi­tal works por­tions of the 2017 pre­li­mi­na­ry bud­get, the fi­nal re­port comes up for re­view and ap­pro­val at the Nov. 23 ses­sion of coun­ties coun­cil. In his brief to the mayors on coun­ties coun­cil, Pa­ri­sien out­li­ned a few pos­sible changes to the pre­li­mi­na­ry bud­get that would re­duce the po­ten­tial tax rate in­crease to less than two per cent or even ze­ro.

One big po­ten­tial cut to the bud­get would in­volve can­cel­ling the $2 mil­lion an­nual al­lo­ca­tion of sub­si­dy fun­ding for the eight mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ties which make up the UCPR. That was in­tro­du­ced in the 2016 bud­get as a means to help the eight mu­ni­ci­pal coun­cils deal with their own ri­sing bud­get pro­blems. At the time the ar­gu­ment was that the UCPR was in a good fi­nan­cial po­si­tion it­self thanks to large re­serve funds and suc­cess over the past few years in achie­ving bud­get plans that did not need tax rate hikes.

The $2 mil­lion mu­ni­ci­pal sub­si­dy, which is in­clu­ded in the 2017 pre­li­mi­na­ry re­port, re­pre­sents a pos­sible five per cent re­duc­tion to the UCPR bud­get tax rate. The idea of re­mo­ving it from the UCPR bud­get did not suit ma­ny of the mayors on coun­ties coun­cil.

“I don’t think it’s fair to take away the mo­ney we’ve al­lo­ca­ted for the town­ships,” said Mayor Ro­bert Kir­by of East Haw­kes­bu­ry Town­ship. He and se­ve­ral other mayors no­ted that their own mu­ni­ci­pal bud­gets for 2017 de­pend on their coun­ties sub­si­dy to help co­ver some nee­ded ex­penses.

Pa­ri­sien no­ted other pos­sible bud­get cuts but they al­so in­volve ei­ther eli­mi­na­tion of par­ti­cu­lar grants or drop­ping some pro­grams and ser­vices. None of them re­cei­ved sup­port from the mayors on coun­ties coun­cil though there was dis­cus­sion about re­vie­wing the bud­get plan fur­ther during the November 9 com­mit­tee of the whole ses­sion.

“We have a de­ci­sion to make,” said Mayor Jeanne Char­le­bois. “If you say two per cent (in­crease), stick to your two per cent, and let’s make (ne­ces­sa­ry) cuts.”

“During the com­mit­tee of the whole ses­sion, we will have fur­ther ques­tions on our bud­get,” said Mayor Ga­ry Bar­ton of Cham­plain Town­ship.

“I think if we go through the bud­get,” said Mayor Kir­by, “I think there are places we can tweak.”

—pho­to Gregg Chamberlain

Sté­phane Pa­ri­sien (au centre), ad­mi­nis­tra­teur en chef pour les Com­tés unis de Pres­cott-Rus­sell, et son équipe, ont pré­sen­té leur rap­port pré­li­mi­naire du bud­get 2017. À moins que le conseil de­mande des chan­ge­ments, le bud­get com­prend une aug­men­ta­tion de taxes de 2 %.

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