City councillors received some shocking figures Friday morning that suggests nearly half the money collected via the tax levy goes towards just three municipal departments.
At a budget steering committee Friday morning, finance manager Maureen Adams provided councillors with numbers that show since 2003 the portion of the tax levy that goes to pay for police, fire and land ambulance services in Cornwall has jumped to 49 per cent from 36.
In terms of dollars, the city spent $15.6 million on those three departments 10 years ago - but now spends nearly $28 million.
To make matters worse, with the exception of just $1.4 million, all of the tax levy increases over that time have been used to pay for increases in those three departments - to the detriment of other areas in the city that need municipal cash infusions like street repairs and building improvements.
"These numbers are stark," said Coun. Bernadette Clement. "I think we as city officials now have an obligation to engage with the community because the public needs to udnerstand this.
"We're going to pay for this in the long term when our infrastructure starts falling apart."
To be fair, the province began downloading services on to municipalities over the same time period discussed Friday by the budget committee.
Coun. Andre Rivette suggested the public needs to be cognizant of that.
"We have no control when all this stuff is downloaded. It's not that council has given all these things to the departments," said Rivette. "The downloading that occurred is what is causing all this today."
Coun. Denis Thibault said it may be time to once again explore the idea of partnering with the United Counties about switching to the Ontario Provincial Police for the entire region, instead of having a separate municipal force.
The idea has been talked about before, but a specific costing has not been done in some time. City council would have final say on whether or not to explore such a scheme.