As mentioned, Council recently wrapped up its 2023 budget process. This is the first budget of this term of Council and the first ones are always tricky. We are fresh out of an election and have some new faces around the table. Work on the budget also starts prior to the election, so while it is being prepared, it is possible that some priorities have shifted with the election of a new Council. To expand on this point a bit more, we have yet to complete our strategic planning exercise for the 2022-2026 term of Council and as such, some references are still being made to the 2018-2022 strategic plan. While this is officially our first budget, I truly feel as though 2024 will be our true first budget.
The draft budget that was presented to Council contained an increase of 5.43%. Council approved an increase of 3.61% for 2023. Inflation was a big driver behind the number as costs have gone up across the board for everything. While this was not an easy decision by any means, and I personally do wish the number was lower, the budget does contain many tangible items. I wanted to highlight some of what I think are the most notable projects.
The Police budget is approved separately by the Police Services Board, but Council does have a final say as part of the overall budget. It is worth noting that the budget this year contains funding for body worn cameras, which is something that is standard across most police forces. The implementation in Cornwall is a positive step.
A number of units across the affordable housing portfolio are getting various upgrades, including kitchens, bathrooms, etc. These renovations are typically completed when the units become vacant. The Glen Stor Dun Lodge is also seeing some upgrades to replace aging equipment. Funding is being provided to replace the tree canopy in town as a result of Emerald Ash Borer and deforestation due to development.
Paramedic Services is getting three replacement ambulances, and three replacement quick response units. Cornwall transit will be adding an additional hybrid bus. Our new hybrid buses save us around 19% in fuel costs and have less maintenance costs overall.
One of the largest projects involves the extension of Nick Kaneb Drive to Tollgate Avenue. This extension will create access for the proposed Great Wolf Lodge site and a further 200 acres in our business park. This land has been sold and the road will allow for access to these sites and the start of construction for these new industries. This will result in new jobs and revenue for the City.
There is a fair bit of investment going into our parks. The boat launch at Guindon Park will be redesigned and reconfigured. This includes improvements to the parking lot on site. Mattice Park in particular will see a couple of upgrades, with the pool being repaired, and the basketball court finally being resurfaced. The pool repairs will extend its life for an additional twenty years, while the court resurfacing is something I had been pushing for, for a number of years.
Grant Park and Chevrier Park are both getting new play structures. Broadview Park will see its tennis court resurfaced. Optimist Park is getting new lighting for the baseball and soccer fields. Bellwood Ridge Subdivision will see its neighbourhood park established. But, perhaps the largest investment into our parks comes in the form of the Menard Park Splashpad, which is something that parents, and kids alike, have been looking forward to for some time.
The Aquatic Centre will be getting new exercise equipment and seating. The Civic Complex is getting a number of upgrades, including new front stairs, new event chairs, and paving for the parking lot on the East side, near the Curling Club.
Perhaps one of the best projects to come out of the 2023 budget is that of the statue for Bob Turner. Ever since the arena bearing his name was demolished, there has not been a true memorial to Mr. Turner. While there is money set aside in the budget, there are also plans for a fundraising initiative. I believe that we could very well raise the majority of funds this way.
There are numerous other investments in equipment, roads, infrastructure, etc., that I didn’t touch on in this column. If you would like to learn more about the 2023 budget, it is available on the city website.