CORNWALL, Ontario - The city's budget steering committee will debate a motion Wednesday morning that could add spending to fix Cornwall's crumbling roads - but it will come at a cost to taxpayers.
Mayor Bob Kilger is expected to forward a motion that calls for nearly $600,000 more to be spent on roads, which could translate into an extra $18 a year from the average residential taxpayer.
Committee members got a whiff of the move late in the day Tuesday and the committee ultimately decided to wait until Wednesday morning to officially wade into the debate.
But some at Tuesday's meeting weren't pleased.
"This is an insult to this community," said Coun. Andre Rivette, adding the move could be considered a "travesty" if approved.
But many councillors suggested the spending will pay dividends considering the dire state of some streets in the city.
"We can justify this for the taxpayers of Cornwall because it's for our infrastructure," said Coun, Glen Grant, who is not a member of the budget committee and cannot vote to support it.. "Roads is something we hear about all the time."
Heading into Tuesday's budget meeting the city was essentially at a tax freeze, but if the spending is approved it would equate to about a one per cent bump.
Coun. Denis Thibault said he could support the move, but only if spending for four additional staff members being proposed in the 2014 budget is eliminated.
"I'm almost in full support of the mayor's motion," he said, adding there appears to be support for his compromise. "I don't want the number of employees to increase."
Budget committee chair Denis Carr was likewise sympathetic to the move and suggested hewants administration to match council's move by finding savings wihtin the operating budget so that $1 million can be set aside for road repairs.
Carr also said he would also seek a motion to approve the budget Wednesday, following debate on the mayor's plan.
Kilger told Seaway News earlier he was supportive of incremental tax increases that kept up with inflation.
“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.”
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.