By Adam Brazeau
CORNWALL, Ontario - The 2014 OPP salary spike is one major culprit behind a one per cent tax increase facing Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry residents.
After six hours of deliberations, counties council finalized its annual budget on Tuesday.
Vanessa Bennett, counties treasurer, immediately acknowledged the elephant in the room: an additional $923,410 in policing costs. The financial hurdle, a result of the OPP’s 8.55 per cent wage increase across the province, marked the end of a two-year across the board salary freeze.
But the financial load on taxpayers was lightened thanks to a surplus of $412,000 available in the police services budget.
Warden Eric Duncan noted that the tax hike was even more of a strain after a $480,700 cut from the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF - a provincial program which helps pay annual OPP costs).
A cash injection from OMPF of $2.7 million, as opposed to the $3.2 million received for 2013, will help foot the OPP’s tab of close to $13 million.
Coun. Bryan McGillis, the mayor of South Stormont, described the constraints of the budget process, stressing that this year council only had the power to distribute 52 per cent of the budget.
Meanwhile, 48 per cent of the budget must be allocated to several essential social, health, and of course, policing costs.
“We’re forced to make tough decisions, while remaining fiscally conservative,” said McGillis.
With a total budget of a little more than $39 million, the one percent increase translates into an extra $10 a year for typical property owners in S,D&G. The budget will be passed at the next council meeting.