Po­ten­tial Cam­bridge tax hike slowly drop­ping

Waterloo Region Record - - LOCAL - Jeff Hicks, Record staff

CAM­BRIDGE — City coun­cil is seek­ing a respite from the loom­ing tax hike.

A pair of ag­ing out­door pools could be lost.

The Ge­orge Han­cock and Soper Park pools in Galt, beloved city dunk tanks dur­ing sum­mer months, could be shut down and re­placed by splash pads.

If the city’s bud­get task force goes for it, the move would save the city $112,800 in 2018 and po­ten­tially mil­lions in costly up­grades to keep the weary op­po­site-side-of-the-river fa­cil­i­ties. Han­cock is 66 years old, while Soper is 50.

Or pulling the plug on two old pools could prove to be a po­lit­i­cal belly flop.

“I can’t fathom the out­door clo­sures,” Coun. Mike Devine said on Thurs­day, as the bud­get task force con­sid­ered a list of cuts city staff put to­gether at the task force’s re­quest.

“I can­not see clos­ing them down un­til we have other pools built for the peo­ple of this com­mu­nity.”

Other pools could be com­ing in the form of a city-sought aquat­ics mul­ti­plex, its ex­act where­abouts and project part­ners still to be de­ter­mined. That could take years. Mean­while, Han­cock and Soper, along with the Ed New­land out­door pool in Pre­ston, get less than eight per cent us­age dur­ing July/Au­gust leisure swims, the task force was told.

Two in­door city pools, Dol­son and John­son Cen­tre, get 13 per cent use.

The task force made no de­ci­sion on the fate of the two tar­geted out­door pools on Thurs­day. But an old pool is hard to put down. A year ago, Soper was also on the bud­get chop­ping block, but got a last-minute re­prieve from coun­cil.

This year, the search for bud­get sav­ings is in­ten­si­fy­ing.

“I know we don’t want to re­duce ser­vices,” Coun. Donna Reid said.

“But we’re at a point where we have to.”

The task force started Thurs­day with Cam­bridge res­i­dents fac­ing a 5.21 per cent hike on the city por­tion of their prop­erty tax bill. By the time mem­bers were done, the hike was down to 4.94 per cent or about $68 dol­lars for the av­er­age home.

The task force ap­proved a 25 per cent cut in grants to groups to save $33,300.

The flatlin­ing of grants, mainly for heritage, the old fire hall mu­seum and the so­cial plan­ning coun­cil, trimmed $24,200. Not fill­ing a project en­gi­neer va­cancy saved $31,800. Con­vert­ing a fire preven­tion po­si­tion into a fire­fighter saved $153,000.

A cor­po­rate train­ing cut saved $50,000. Two other po­ten­tial cuts will be com­ing back to the task force Dec. 14, as it works toward a tax hike closer to four per cent.

One po­ten­tial cut seeks $300,000 in sav­ings through more ef­fi­cient ad­min­is­tra­tion from the city li­brary en­tity Idea Ex­change. City man­ager Gary Dyke and bud­get task force chair Mike Mann are to meet with the li­brary board next week.

“Our board hasn’t seen this cut,” li­brary board chair Gary Price, told the bud­get task force, of which he is a mem­ber. “We’ll take it up on Wed­nes­day with the board. Through that dis­cus­sion, we’ll ei­ther come back and let you know that they’re in agree­ment or they have some other ideas to lower the num­ber. We know you want a lower num­ber.”

City staff is also in­ves­ti­gat­ing the po­ten­tial sav­ings from slash­ing the cost-of-liv­ing al­lowance in half for some or all non-union­ized staff.

The task force ap­proved a $20,000 grant for the Sex­ual As­sault Sup­port Cen­tre of Water­loo Re­gion, up from $4,300. The cen­tre runs a satel­lite of­fice at Langs in Cam­bridge and has a list of 125 sur­vivors, 30-plus from Cam­bridge, wait­ing for sup­port.

Full city coun­cil will con­sider the bud­get on Dec. 19.

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