CORNWALL, Ontario - City councillors appear to be angling towards beginning the 2014 budget process with a tax freeze in mind, instead of the two per cent tax levy increase initially considered.
As councillors head into their final budget before an election they have requested the city's finance department prepare a report on the implications of implementing a tax freeze next year.
But the warnings are already coming from officials who suggest a tax freeze will come with a price.
“We’re looking at cuts, it’s that simple," said Coun. Elaine MacDonald.
City finance manager Maureen Adams told councillors its unclear just where those cuts will come from, though municipal services are a likely place to start.
Coun. Denis Thibault said to suggest the city can afford another tax levy hike is inaccurate.
“We’re projecting false hope when we project…that we will be providing an additional two per cent," he said. “I think we need to know the impact of zero per cent.”
A report from the city's finance department that was discussed Monday night included provisions that would start the 2014 budget deliberations with a two per cent tax levy increase in place.
Monday's council meeting included suggestions that so-called outside agencies which petition the city every year for taxpayer money face a cap on how much they will receive.
The tax base funded $500,000 in handouts to local agencies, while a further $60,000 was taken from reserves, for 2013.
Coun. Andre Rivette wants the funding capped at $500,000.
"Not a penny more," he said. "It’s not going to be an easy job…but we have to put the hammer down."
Coun. Denis Thibault floated the idea of eliminating outside agencies by bringing them under the municipal umbrella.
"Any agency that is not moved into a regular city budget (should) no longer have access to the city (budget)," he said. "(Those) agencies should be contracted by the city to provide a service.
"We have to start looking at what is essential versus what is nice to have."
Ultimately council decided to create a committee that will make recommendations concerning just how outside agencies should be funded.
The city's budget steering committee will include the mayor and four members of council. Last year all of city council was included on the committee.