Council passes 73 cent a week residential tax increase

By Nick Seebruch

Published on May 15, 2017

Mayor O'Shaughnessy warned that tax cuts will create greater hardships down the road (Nick Seebruch/ TC Media).

CORNWALL, Ontario - At a special meeting of Council on Monday, May 15, Cornwall City Councillors approved a residential tax rate increase of 1.74 percent, but Mayor Leslie O'Shaughnessy warned council that spending cuts will do nothing to fix the underlying problem.

Before the final vote was cast, Councillor Elaine MacDonald put forth a motion for a 2.78 percent residential tax increase, with hopes that administration would use that money to fill gaps let behind from the severe cuts.

"We are looking at this the wrong way around, we have a community and society because we invest in it with taxes," she said. "We have this attitude that tax is bad. No! Tax is good."

Councillor Carilyne Hebert spoke in favour of the motion and pointed out that the City was cutting so much to deliver an even lower tax rate than the year before.

"It breaks my heart to see everytime we reduce this number,' she said. "Our proposed rate is less than last year. This year of crisis has turned into not so much of a crisis. I hate to see that we are removing things and we are walking a very fine line. Taxes as councillor MacDonald mentioned is the price we pay for a civilized society."

The Mayor himself stepped down from the chair to give his perspective on the issue and warned council that such severe cuts will leave the City with a deep hole for future generations to try and climb out of.

"I'm going to support 2.78 and why? Because that doesn't even address the problems we have this year," said Mayor O'Shaughnessy. "We've accomplished nothing to tackle this $3 million deficit. There's no one who dislikes raising taxes more than me. Cutting for the sake of cutting makes it harder for future years. I can just see this compounding and it is just getting worse and worse. This is just an illusion to the people that we are saving them money, but we're not."

Ultimately, the motion was defeated 6-4.

Councillor Andre Rivette railled against the attempt to revise the proposed tax rate and increase it by a full percent.

"We are asking the taxpayers to pick up the damages from MPAC and everyone else," he said. "Its not fair that these distribution centres get a tax break at expense of our residents."

Rivette had stated that because of the low household income in Cornwall, especially for seniors, an increase was not feasible. Elaine MacDonald responded by saying that increased taxes can help seniors remain in their homes.

"Taxes are keeping people in their homes," she said. "Our taxes provide visiting caregivers, meals on wheels and home renovations."

As stated, ultimately, the motion to raise the tax rate to 2.78 percent failed and a residential tax rae of 1.74 percent was set.

After the meeting, Councillor Elaine MacDonald explained that the City and those who use its services will feel the effects.

"There's no room to manoeuver," she said. "Service across the corporation will be affected."