Cornwall City Hall
City hall has finally reached the three per cent tax levy increase mandated by councillors when budget discussions began earlier this year.
Maureen Adams, the city’s finance manager, listed a slew of spending shifts and outright cuts which redcues spending and equates to a three per cent tax levy increase for this year.
The city plans to fund some projects out of reserves, change forecasts for things like the cost of fuel, and eliminate the replacement of one city park play structure.
There appeared to be tacit consensus around the council table to move ahead with making the changes to the city’s budget – capping the tax increase at $42 on the average residential bill.
“Which is equivalent to a 1.75 increase over what they paid in 2012,” said Adams.
But council has not yet approved the budget, and there are still discussions to be had about how to fund outside agencies, which are asking for more money this year. City bean counters allotted a little more than $561,000 for outside agencies in 2013, but the increased requests total more than $700,000.
"This budget does not support champagne tastes, nor does it support soda pop tastes," said Coun. Denis Carr, who added it is conceivable council could approve the budget soon, and divy up spending for outside agencies later.
That could happen as soon as Friday.
What has become clear is that commercial and multi-residential property owners are paying for a larger piece of the tax pie in Cornwall.
If one compares the ratio paid out by different tax classes, multi-residential, commercial and industrial pay double, if not a little more, than residential property owners.
“The commercial sector assessments…we do have some significant increases,” said Adams, adding while there are more commercial properties to draw tax revenue from “based on the revaluation of (assessment), the value of their property is going up more than others.”
Coun. Gerry Samson said despite the fact that council’s three per cent directive has been achieved, he questioned property owners’ ability to pay when one considers there have already been increases to things like utility bills.
He also went on to suggest council is feeling pressure from residents, including the Community Action Group (CAG) – a collection of business advocates that want city spending curbed.
“We’re going to have to come up with some kind of strategy to bite the bullet because people are really feeling it,” said Samson.
His comments struck a nerve with Coun. Glen Grant.
“We don’t answer to the CAG, we answer to the community,” he said. “If they have such great ideas, let them bring the ideas forward – not just chuck crap against the wall at us.”