Coun­ties start an­nual bud­get wrest­ling match

Le Reflet (The News) - - ACTUALITÉS • NEWS - Gregg.cham­ber­

It’s co­ming out of the cor­ner wei­ghing in at al­most five-and-a-half per cent but the eight mayors on coun­ties coun­cil hope to tag-team wrestle the tax rate in­crease for the 2018 Pres­cott-Rus­sell bud­get down to three-and-a-half.

Ju­lie Mé­nard-Brault, fi­nance di­rec­tor for the Uni­ted Coun­ties of Pres­cott-Rus­sell (UCPR), pre­sen­ted coun­ties coun­cil Wed­nes­day with a sum­ma­ry of the first draft of the 2018 bud­get.

“It is a bud­get that has eve­ry­thing that coun­cil as­ked for or ap­pro­ved,” Mé­nardB­rault said. “I think it’s a good first draft.”

The one thing all eight mayors did not like about the re­port was the 5.4 per cent tax rate in­crease that came with the bud­get draft.

Ba­sed on pro­vin­cial pro­per­ty as­sess­ment gui­de­lines for 2017, ho­meow­ners in Pres­cott-Rus­sell pay $403.36 for eve­ry $100,000 worth of as­ses­sed va­lue of their house and pro­per­ty.

If the pre­li­mi­na­ry coun­ties bud­get re­port was ap­pro­ved as is wi­thout any changes, that would re­sult in a $21 in­crease for eve­ry $100,000 as­ses­sed va­lue to the UCPR por­tion of the pro­per­ty tax bill for an ave­rage home in Pres­cott-Rus­sell.

How much is five per cent?

Du­ring the half-hour dis­cus­sion that fol­lo­wed Mé­nard-Brault’s re­port sum­ma­ry, Rus­sell Town­ship Mayor Pierre Le­roux no­ted that coun­cil needs to main­tain pers­pec­tive on how a 5.4 per cent in­crease in the tax rate for the ave­rage ho­meow­ners would mean in the real world if it were spread out over a year.

“We’re loo­king at the cost of two large cof­fees a month,” he said, ad­ding that there is room to make ad­just­ments to the bud­get to re­duce the im­pact, though some kind of tax rate in­crease is una­voi­dable for the coun­ties af­ter the past few years of avoi­ding the need for a rate in­crease.

“Five-point-four per cent is a sca­ry num­ber when you look at it just on the sur­face,” Le­roux ad­mit­ted. “But pre­vious (coun­ties) coun­cils de­ci­ded to stay at ze­ro per cent (rate in­crease) at all costs, so this is where we are now.”

Split the dif­fe­rence?

Cla­rence-Ro­ck­land Mayor Guy Des­jar­dins ob­jec­ted to a pos­sible 5.4 per cent in­crease to the coun­ties tax rate, fea­ring the pos­sible im­pact on his own mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty’s fu­ture growth po­ten­tial. He no­ted that Cla­rence-Ro­ck­land is next door to Or­léans and com­petes with that Ot­ta­wa sub­urb for both new re­si­den­tial and com­mer­cial de­ve­lop­ment.

Haw­kes­bu­ry Mayor Jeanne Char­le­bois agreed that the pre­li­mi­na­ry bud­get re­port does in­clude eve­ry item on the coun­ties’ wish list but she ob­jec­ted to the idea of a large tax rate in­crease to pay for those wishes.

“I still find five per cent too high,” she said. “I can­not sup­port that.”

Both Mé­nard-Brault and Sté­phane Pa­ri­sien, UCPR chief ad­mi­nis­tra­tor, re­min­ded them that the re­port in­cludes all items that the mayors have as­ked, over the past year, for consi­de­ra­tion in the 2018 bud­get.

“If you took out eve­ry­thing coun­cil as­ked us to put in,” Pa­ri­sien ex­plai­ned, “you’d be at ze­ro (tax rate in­crease).”

“It’s not the end of the world,” said Mayor Des­jar­dins, ad­ding that bor­ro­wing for some wish list items could avoid the need for a 5.4 per cent rate hike.

“I’m pre­pa­red to bor­row, if it’s not big amounts,” he ad­ded, “and it can be paid off over a few years.”

“I won’t sup­port a bud­get that creates debt,” ar­gued Mayor Ro­bert Kir­by of East Haw­kes­bu­ry. “It goes against my men­ta­li­ty. You can bor­row to­day, but you have to pay for it la­ter.”

Most of coun­cil agreed in the end to have ad­mi­nis­tra­tion re­view the draft bud­get and present a fol­low-up re­port at the Oct. 25 re­gu­lar ses­sion, with re­com­men­da­tions to bring the tax rate in­crease down to 3.5 per cent.

—pho­to Gregg Cham­ber­lain

Les maires de Pres­cott-Rus­sell ont un vrai dé­fi de­vant eux avec le bud­get de 2018. Un rap­port pré­li­mi­naire in­dique une aug­men­ta­tion pos­sible de 5,4 % du taux de l’im­pôt fon­cier pour l’an­née pro­chaine s’il n’y a au­cun chan­ge­ment dans les élé­ments du...

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