MAYOR TALKS: City budget, waterfront tanks dominate agenda

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Mayor Bob Kilger.

By the end of this week city residents should have a good idea how much their tax bills will change this year – and how much they are likely to be paying.

In an interview with Seaway News that touched on a variety of subjects, Mayor Bob Kilger said it’s unreasonable to think the city can present property owners with tax freeze given the financial pressures the municipality is facing.

“I don’t think it’s wise to go to zero – it might make people feel good in the short-term, but I’m of the view it causes long-term pain when you don’t keep up with the…rate of inflation,” said Kilger. “The old story is you could pay me now, or pay me later.”

The city’s main budget committee meets all week to go over the 2014 financials.

Kilger suggested the city is faced with construction costs that climb by as much as five per cent a year.

“So the longer you delay something, the greater the cost,” he said.

The city has already saddled itself with a fairly hefty bill when it comes to replacing some of the aging infrastructure below our feet.

Some $5 million will be spent this year alone to augment some of the sewer/storm relief infrastructure in Cornwall neighbourhoods that have become flood prone. The plan is to spend the same amount in 2015 and 2016 to ease the burden on homeowners who have experienced flooded basements and rising insurance rates when massive storms roll through the city.

But it won’t come cheap for taxpayers, who will be on the hook as much as $30 more this year on their water bills.

Kilger suggested city council is trying to mitigate the increased pressure on taxpayers where it can.

“In the last seven years, (the city) has provided citizens with a progressive tax rate that is responsible and reasonable,” said Kilger.

A report last year completed by the city’s finance department suggested that over the previous eight years municipal taxes jumped by nearly 13 per cent - which resulted in an extra $ 273 being shelled out by property owners. But, over that same time if one were to use the inflation rate instead, taxes would have jumped by 14 per cent, or $ 307.

Waterfront tanks

In addition to the budget that takes centre stage this week, Kilger also touched on an issue that carries over from last year – the construction on chemical storage tanks at the Cornwall Harbour.

City council is mulling a plan to express interest in acquiring the lands in question, but such a scenario will have to play out over a number of months.

Kilger said in the meantime council is still committed to finding a way to permanently stop the project.

“The urgency lies in stopping, ultimately, the construction of the storage tanks,” he said.

Trilllium Distribution, the builders of the tanks, have agreed to stop construction for the time being, while talks continue with Transport Canada and Akwesasne.

Kilger said Akwesasne has expressed an interest in further discussing a plan that would see ownership pf the lands changed. But just how that would take place is also a mystery, since the city requires the First Nation to enter into a partnership in that regard, or give up its existing land claim.

“At this juncture Akwesasne is open to continuing the dialogue with Transport Canada, along with the city,” he said.

City council is expected to receive more information on the plan when it meets next week.

Organizations: Seaway News, Transport Canada, First Nation

Geographic location: CORNWALL, Ontario

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