Levy hike now 2.69%

Coun­cil calls for fur­ther re­duc­tions in bud­get in­crease

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - FRONT PAGE - RON­ALD ZAJAC

Brockville’ s 2019 tax levy in­crease now sits at 2.69 per cent, with coun­cil send­ing the bud­get back to staff with in­struc­tions to mit­i­gate that in­crease even fur­ther.

Brockville coun­cil on Thurs­day passed a se­ries of mea­sures, mostly sug­gested by staff, that re­duced a levy in­crease of 4.19 per cent to the cur­rent level.

Mem­bers also backed a small spend­ing mea­sure, agree­ing to give $4,000 to Com­mu­ni­ties in Bloom, which will have ei­ther a neglible im­pact on the prop­erty tax bill or none at all if, as some sug­gest, it can be funded out of the ac­com­mo­da­tions tax.

But a num­ber of high-priced re­quests re­main to be con­sid­ered, which could put more up­ward pres­sure on the levy; these in­clude a new po­si­tion at the Brockville Arts Cen­tre and a new fire truck.

“This has to be an ex­er­cise in pri­or­ity-set­ting,” Mayor Ja­son Baker said be­fore mem­bers passed Coun. Larry Jour­nal’s mo­tion call­ing for fur­ther cuts.

“Ev­ery­thing on here makes per­fect sense, and yet we can’t af­ford to do ev­ery­thing on here.”

Baker fur­ther chal­lenged col­leagues to get the levy in­crease down to two per cent.

The bud­get pack­age fac­ing coun­cil­lors Thurs­day called for a tax levy, the to­tal amount of dol­lars needed from city prop­erty tax­pay­ers, of $37,099,380, up $1,491,125 from 2018, or an in­crease of 4.19 per cent.

Coun­cil­lors then backed a se­ries of re­duc­tions.

They in­cluded Coun. Mike Kali­vas’s sug­ges­tion to put the brakes on a $100,000 in­crease to the an­nual arena re­serve con­tri­bu­tion.

Rather than go­ing up as planned, the con­tri­bu­tion to the arena re­serve will re­main at $500,000, which would leave that re­serve at $2 mil­lion this year, said Dick.

Coun­cil­lors also agreed to use the fed­eral gas tax to cover $74,000 in prin­ci­pal and in­ter­est on the Rail­way Tun­nel deficit, and $60,000 for the wash­rooms at Hardy Park.

Coun­cil also gave the OK to the re­moval of $150,000 each from the build­ing main­te­nance and park­land equip­ment line items.

These mea­sures brought the levy in­crease to 2.69, but Jour­nal later in­tro­duced an­other mo­tion call­ing on coun­cil to cut a fur­ther $150,000 from the over­all bud­get.

Jour­nal’s mo­tion also calls on staff to find up to $300,000 more in sav­ings from cap­i­tal main­te­nance items now paid for by the tax levy. That main­te­nance work can still be in­cluded in the bud­get if staff finds other ways to fund it.

Mem­bers ap­proved that mo­tion unan­i­mously.

Jour­nal also called on city of­fi­cials to pro­vide coun­cil with more de­tails when they show up at bud­get meet­ings ask­ing for new items.

He made the point when eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor Rob Nolan pitched the need for a new staff mem­ber at the Brockville Arts Cen­tre, a box of­fice co­or­di­na­tor who would cost the city $71,900 in salary and ben­e­fits.

Arts cen­tre of­fi­cials ar­gue the new hire is needed to keep up the vol­ume of sales needed to grow the fa­cil­ity’s busi­ness, and with­out it they may have to cut back on the num­ber of shows.

But the size of the salary star­tled many on coun­cil, prompt­ing Jour­nal to ar­gue for the need for a “full busi­ness case.”

“I’m not against this po­si­tion, po­ten­tially, but I have no in­for­ma­tion to make a de­ci­sion,” added Jour­nal.

He planned to make a mo­tion re­fer­ring that and other items back to staff for more in­for­ma­tion, but held off at the mayor’s urg­ing.

Of­fi­cials are ex­pected to re­turn with the arts cen­tre item with more de­tails, and per­haps a lower salary point, at a fu­ture bud­get meet­ing.

Coun­cil also must de­cide on the big­gest of the in­cre­men­tal items, a $750,000 fire depart­ment ve­hi­cle. Mem­bers on Thurs­day sug­gested Fire Chief Ghis­lain Pi­geon re­duce that cost by look­ing for a used truck.

An­other big-ticket item is a joint po­lice and fire depart­ment boat, at a cost of $350,000, while the list also in­cludes pa­trol car­bines for the po­lice force ($66,000), ramp and slope work at the Rail­way Tun­nel ($40,000) and main­te­nance work at the Aquatar­ium ($20,000).

Coun­cil’s only spend­ing mo­tion of the night, the $4,000 for Com­mu­ni­ties in Bloom, will al­low the vol­un­teer group to pay the reg­is­tra­tion fee for the provin­cial com­pe­ti­tion, as well as cover the costs of host­ing judges and maybe do­ing new projects. Rza­[email protected]

RON­ALD ZAJAC/THE RECORDER AND TIMES

Brockville Coun. Larry Jour­nal, right, makes a point while Coun. Jeff Earle lis­tens dur­ing coun­cil's bud­get meet­ing on Thurs­day evening.

RON­ALD ZAJAC/THE RECORDER AND TIMES

Brockville Mayor Ja­son Baker speaks dur­ing Brockville coun­cil's bud­get meet­ing on Thurs­day night.

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