City budget decided tonight – just how much will your taxes increase?

City budget decided tonight – just how much will your taxes increase?
Cornwall City Hall

CORNWALL, Ontario – City council dives into the final budget meeting of the year today, with biggest question being just how much will your taxes increase?

A tax hike is all but assured based on the discussions to date. Council tasked CAO Norm Levac with finding another $70,000 to trim from the budget.

But even removing that much would result in an additional $54 on a typical residential property in Cornwall – or about a 2.4 per cent hike.

And it’s likely there are councillors who want to add some spending to the budget, or remove some as the case may be, so numbers are still being finalized.

More funding for at least one local arts group could be available – but it will take a shift in thinking from a majority of city councillors.

There is growing sentiment around the city council table to find some more money for Your Arts Council (YAC), an outside agency that advocates on behalf of regional artists and wants another $23,000 on top of the $12,000 the city has already pledged.

On the flipside, there appears little political will to reverse a decision to cap funding for The Art Gallery – Cornwall (TAG) at $13,500 for 2015.

“It’s time for them to reboot,” said Coun. David Murphy last week. “They need to get their house in order.”

But the sticky wicket in finding more money for YAC is that council has set a cap on how much it will fund so-called outside agencies – $525,000.

Coun. Claude McIntosh pointed out that if council wants to add funding to an outside group, it must first revisit the cap limit. Once again political will to do so may be an issue.

“You’ve got a cap in place,” he said. “We can’t increase the cap unless we have a vote to increase it.”

McIntosh is fearful that if the cap is increased, every outside agency that saw their funding shelved or reduced will petition for more as well.

“If you go over that cap…well, here they come,” he said.

Murphy suggested an increase in YAC funding could be found without going to the taxpayers for more.

“We will have to be creative,” he said when asked where, and how, that will be achieved.

Also going under the microscope is the Cornwall Fire Department. While four probationary firefighters are in the budget right now, many councillors tell Seaway News there’s not enough support to fill vacancies within the department.

Instead, council is expected to wait until a new fire chief is hired and begins managing the department before green-lighting the hiring.

Council will gamble that fire department overtime won’t spike significantly.

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