Counties budget signed after split-vote


L’ORIGNAL | The United Counties of Prescott-Russell have a budget all signed and sealed and ready for next year. But not without a couple last-minute objec- tions. In a registered vote of six for and two against, the counties council gave final ap- proval during its Nov. 27 session to the 2014 budget, the second consecutive zero-tax rate increase budget for Prescott-Russell. The dissenting votes for final approval came from Champlain Township Mayor Gary Barton and The Nation Mayor François St-Amour. “The staff is probably not going to like this,” Mayor Barton said before explaining the reason for his disapproval. His and St-Amour’s objections were not about the overall budget itself but for coun- cil’s decision earlier in the month to turn down a request from The Nation council for further cuts to the counties’ budget which would have reduced the municipal prop- erty tax levy even more. The Nov. 27 counties council agenda package included a resolution from Cham- plain Township council supporting The Na- tion’s request for a further 2.5 per cent re- duction of the counties budget and tax rate. That reduction would have meant about $1 million less for the counties budget.

Both Barton and St-Amour have noted that rural municipalities are experiencing difficulties meeting demands for services while trying to maintain aging infrastruc- ture “The fact is, day to day, every day we’re getting more demands on our municipal budgets,” Barton said. Both he and St-Amour also noted that mu- nicipalities like theirs will face even tougher budgeting decisions in future years if the provincial government goes ahead with plans for reductions in its own municipal support grants. St-Amour noted in a prior interview that if the counties administration is able to maintain its zero-per cent budget record over the next few years then that would also help out rural municipalities in the end

since their shares of the public tax levy for the counties would not increase. Next year’s counties budget remains in- tact at $89.1 million. The municipal levy portion is $37.4 million, the same as it was in the 2013 budget. That means no increase to the counties’ percentage of next year’s property tax bill. The 2013 UCPR property tax rate of $465 for every $100,000 assessed value will remain the same for 2014. Any increase or decrease in the actual amount of property taxes that homeowners in Prescott-Russell pay the counties next year will depend on whether or not their property increased in value or decreased. The capital works portion of the budget includes plans for 53 kilometres of paving projects, three storm sewer repairs, and

county road studies for Hawkesbury and the former provincial highway now known as County Road 17. Having the 2014 budget approved now means that all departments in the coun- ties can get an earlier start on their tender calls for capital works projects, equipment purchases, or service contracts. This could result in lower-than-usual bids during the tendering process as some companies may scramble to make sure their spring and summer production schedule quotas are filled as early as possible. This has resulted often during the past two years in savings for the counties along with budget surpluses which can then ei- ther go into reserve funds or go towards expanded capital works projects like road paving.


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