Draft budget calls for 2.69 per cent tax hike

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Cornwall City Hall

City councillors have been provided with a draft municipal budget that calls for a 2.69 per cent tax hike.

The increase on the tax rate will translate into an additional $64 on the tax bill of an average Cornwall home assessed at $163,000.

City bean counters have prepared a 2013 budget that includes 4.01 per cent tax increase - which is more than the three per cent ceiling that was directed by city council last year when it gave instructions to administrators preparing the document.

Councillors would have to authorize $515,000 in cuts to meet the three per cent ceiling.

"We were not able to meet that directive," finance manager Maureen Adams told city councillors Friday morning during a meeting of the city's budget steering committee.

But city managers are suggesting the hike only equates to 2.69 per cent because of changes within assessment in Cornwall, as well as shifts between the tax classes.

Adams told councillors other tax classes, like commercial properties, will offset the taxes paid by residential property owners, based on the shift.

Coun. Denis Thibault was expecting a more dire tax hit.

"I'm actually surprised you were able to come in at 4.01," he said. "I thought you would come in at between five and seven per cent."

But Thibault wants to hear from specific department leaders about the impact of a three per cent ceiling on spending increases as the budget process unfolds - leaving the door open for talks about further limiting budget expenditures.

Adams confirmed there are some areas in the budget that do just that.

Coun. Denis Carr was elected chair of the city budget steering committee at Friday's session at city hall.

The 2013 budget provides no service enhancements for the city, and much of the increases are driven by collective agreements that provide for raises in salaries and benefits to municipal employees like firefighters and police officers.

Net increases for fire and police are 7.65 and 4.73 per cent respectively. Combined the two departments require an additional $1.4 million in 2013.

More to come.

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