CORNWALL, Ontario – The City of Cornwall released their draft version of the 2020 budget including the Operating and Capital budgets on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020.
The budget shows increases in operating costs and correlating increases in the residential tax levy.
The City states that while operating budgets have increased by $1.4 million or 1.98 per cent from last year, revenues have fallen, excluding taxation, by $2.2 million or 2.21 per cent.
City administration cited the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) as a source of challenges for this year’s budget. Namely, that while property assessment values have fallen in Cornwall for multi-residential and commercial properties, the City has also had to refund tax money to some property owners due to incorrect assessments on the part of MPAC.
From 2017 to 2019, Cornwall refunded $8 million to property owners due to incorrect assessments. Cornwall took $1,971,666 from the Tax Stabilization Reserve to help pay for these tax refunds. Administration has budgeted $500,000 to be put back into that reserve from the 2020 budget as the first step in repaying that nearly $2 million.
The Capital Budget from municipal departments fell sharply from 2019. The 2020 capital budget is 20 per cent, or $334,700, lower than 2019.
In terms of a tax increase, administration is recommending a residential tax increase of 1.48 per cent. For an average home in Cornwall, assessed at $173,684, a residential tax increase of 1.48 per cent if passed would mean a municipal tax of $2,560.46 in real dollars. Of that amount, the largest portion, 24 per cent, will go towards policing.
Lower than expected assessment values from MPAC mean that the City will collect $2.5 million less than it projected to collect this year in its Long Term Financial Plan. In order to remain in line with the plan, and to achieve funding targets for future projects, Cornwall would have to increase its residential tax rate by 8.47 per cent in 2021, something that administration opted to avoid in its draft.
“Understanding that an increase to the tax levy of 8.47 per cent is not realistic, a re-forecast is completed,” Cornwall administration states in the draft budget. “Ultimately, the City continues with its Capital Plan, but takes longer to achieve targeted Reserve balances.”
Cornwall’s total operating budget for 2020 is $173.1 million and the capital budget is $27.2 million.
The draft budget will be reviewed by Cornwall City Council’s budget committee, which will then pass it along to Council as a whole to approve the final draft.