Councillors miffed after budget motion shelved by administrators

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Clockwise from top left are councillors David Murphy, Bernadette Clement, Glen Grant, Syd Gardiner, Andre Rivette and Denis Thibault.

CORNWALL, Ontario - A collection of city councillors were angry Tuesday when they learned a motion passed last fall to create a budget document with a tax levy freeze failed to materialize.

Councillors David Murphy and Andre Rivette were the most upset, suggesting administrators ignored the direction.

"I'm not happy about it," Murphy said in an interview. "I just felt that motion was set aside."

The language in the council motion from Sept. 30 looks pretty clear: "That council direct administration to prepare a budget document with a two per cent levy increase and to also prepare a budget document with a zero per cent increase for comparison."

But instead administrators prepared just one document, "a hybrid" according to Murphy, that includes a 1.76 per cent tax levy hike.

Murphy added there had been nothing from administration in the months since September to suggest they were preparing a different set of documents.

"They just said 'Here it is,'" Murphy said. "In fairness we got the budget about 10 days ago, but I thought they were preparing a presentation or something else...even just a one-pager."

Before long Tuesday's budget meeting degenerated into a finger-pointing exercise among councillors and administrators.

Finance manager Maureen Adams suggested there was insufficient direction from council regarding the September motion, which was authored by Murphy and Rivette.

The meeting was peppered with emotion, with Coun. Denis Thibault suggesting his colleagues don't have the "guts" to make serious cuts to the budget, regardless of what is presented.

The budget, which still requires official approval of city council, contains the 1.76 per cent levy increase which is offset by a four per cent reduction in the actual tax rate. The end result could be a budget that collects essentially the same from the average residential property owner compared to 2013.

Geographic location: Ontario

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