CORNWALL – The 2022 budget process is underway for the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry, with administration aiming for a tax increase of less than two per cent. However that number could change depending on assessments and last minute provincial funding announcements.
An air of uncertainty over pandemic-related increases for construction materials also clouded budget discussions.
Council met December 8 for the first of two planned budget meetings, but only one was needed.
The proposed budget, if approved as presented, would mean a residential tax bill of $589 for every $100,000 of assessment value, an increase of 1.86 per cent from 2021.
Residential properties make up 57 per cent of the total assessment in SDG Counties but account for 74 per cent of the tax revenue. Farmland and managed forests are 32 per cent of total assessment but only 10 per cent of revenue.
Council agreed to continue funding priorities including the mental health registered nurse pilot program for SD&G OPP ($120K), the Eastern Ontario Agri-Food Network ($25K) and the St. Lawrence River Institute ($10K).
A $50,000 donation to Ronald McDonald House in Ottawa was considered by council and approved.
RMHC asked for a multi-year funding commitment, SDG opted for a one year donation, and for the fund to be considered again for future donations during the next term of council.
Others receiving donations in 2022, once the budget is approved, are: $9K to support local fairs in the county, $1K for the local Habitat for Humanity organization, and $940 for the Royal Canadian Legion.
Shown in the budget but already funded are donations to fund capital construction costs for Dundas Manor in Winchester and Maxville Manor.
Forty per cent of SDG’s budget funds shared services and outside agencies. This includes police (21 per cent), land ambulance (10 per cent), social housing (three per cent) and GlenStorDun Lodge (two per cent). Many of these are provided through the shared services agreement with the City of Cornwall.
Honouring the request from SDG, shared services increased by nearly $752K as one additional land ambulance was added by the City of Cornwall in 2021 to help improve response times. This had been a long-standing ask by the County members of the Shared Services committee with the city. Overall shared services increased by $1 million from 2021 to 2022, including the land ambulance increase.
Council agreed to use some of its tax rate stabilization reserve to cover the increase in the shared services budget.
Sixty per cent of SDG Counties’ budget funds services delivered in-house. SDG’s transportation department accounts for 83 per cent of that budget.
The transportation department has planned for several projects in South Dundas this year. This includes replacing a culvert on Lakeshore Drive just south of the County Road 2 intersection near Iroquois. This was a commitment made by SDG when the road was downloaded to South Dundas in 2017. Nearby, the Doran Creek Culvert running under CR 2 is also slated to be replaced in 2022.
The CR 18 bridge over Hoasic Creek north west of Froatburn will be replaced next year. That $625K project will see the removal of the bridge and a box culvert installed which Ben deHaan, transportation director said would save the Counties money.
Also planned are resurfacing projects on County Road 1 between CR 40 and Irena Road, CR 7 from Elma to Froats Road, CR 16 (Brinston Road) from Highway 401 to near Dixon’s Corners, and CR 31 from CR7 (Elma Road) north to Winchester Springs at CR 5.
As already approved to advance the purchasing tender, one new snow plow ($285K) will be bought in 2022. Two additional pick up trucks will be bought at about $40K each however COVID-19 funding will be used to cover that cost.
In a discussion about roads and construction costs, several members of council asked about material costs and if there were going to be delays due to shortages. Work on the Morrisburg roundabout will extend into 2022 as electrical parts were not available.
Warden Allan Armstrong said “we may have some sobering realizations come this spring,” of ashphalt and concrete price increases in 2022.
A revised draft budget will be brought forward to the January 15, 2022 meeting for further discussion.
This article was originally written for and appeared in The Morrisburg Leader.