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OPINION: The 2019 budget was a triumph, now the work starts

Image of Nick Seebruch
By Nick Seebruch
OPINION: The 2019 budget was a triumph, now the work starts
The City of Cornwall's Chief Financial Officer Tracy Bailey presenting the budget to Council (Nick Seebruch/ TC Media).

The 2019 budget was passed at lightning speed when compared to the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

Both the 2017 and 2018 budget took six months each. The speed at which this budget was passed can be credited to the work of city administration and the cooperation amongst councillors, which I believe in large part was thanks to Mayor Bernadette Clement. There was also the fact that a starting tax increase of 3.09 percent is much easier to swallow than an increase of 8 percent, which is what council was facing in 2018.

One reason why the tax increase was lower than expected this year is thanks to development charges. In 2018, Council introduced development charges, which means that developers must pay a fee to the City of Cornwall when they want to do something like connect a property to a municipal service, like the water/ waste water system. Cornwall was one of the few municipalities in Ontario to not use development charges and thanks to their introduction, administration forecasts that there will be an increase of revenue to the City of $2.2 million, which will be spent on municipal capital projects.

Overall, the budget process this year was fairly smooth. There were no moments where money was voted to be cut, only to be put back in later. There are some exciting capital projects that got the greenlight, including the new welcome signage at the Port of Entry, and on the other hand, a tax increase of 2.98 per cent, which was the final number, would have been a dream for council just a year ago. Remember, like everyone else, year on year, the City of Cornwall has to manage the rising cost of fuel, increases in pay and benefits to employees, as well as the general increase in cost of living.

All of this however, is not to say that there weren’t a few hiccups along the road. The passing of $300,000 for the design of the new Arts Centre without first having a business plan has raised some eyebrows. Why spend $300,000 on the design of something if it’s true scope and purpose is yet to be determined? Additionally, everyone, whether they be in administration, on Council or part of a Community Agency group believe that the Community Agency funding system seems to be broken.

Ultimately however, we must give credit where credit is due. Council booked out four consecutive days of deliberations on this year’s budget, and ultimately only needed two. Having consecutive days of meetings was efficient and whether the budget be hard or easy, I think that’s how it should be done going forward. In the past couple of years, council would meet once, maybe twice a week over the course of months, and this is primarily what caused the process to drag on, which delayed tenders and projects for the year.

This budget I think, was easy, let’s see if this Council can handle a bigger challenge when it comes next year.

What did you think of this year’s budget process? Email your Letter to the Editor to nicholas.seebruch@tc.tc

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