Warden Peter Emon and Admaston-Bromley Mayor Raye-Anne Briscoe facilitate last week's Renfrew County budget workshop.
Steve Newman, Renfrew Mercury
Renfrew County staff projected a 2.8 per cent increase in the tax levy heading into its Jan. 23 and 24 budget workshop. But with the workshop completed, county council had whittled the increase down to 2.0 per cent.
Those numbers delighted Warden Peter Emon, who chaired the two-day workshop with Admaston-Bromley Mayor Raye-Anne Briscoe.
Factoring in real assessment growth of 1.8 per cent, the actual tax levy impact for the county’s 2013 budget will be an increase of 0.2 per cent.
The increase means the levy will increase by $709,037 over the 2012 levy, bringing county taxes levied in 2013 to $36,052,253. This increase will come forward for approval at council Jan. 30.
The Renfrew County portion of the tax bill will rise less than a dollar for a house that was assessed at $100,000 in 2012 and rose the average county assessment of 1.9 per cent in 2013, to $101,900. That homeowner’s county tax bill of $367.43 will rise only 73 cents, to $368.16.
“I think all of county council was pretty satisfied,” said Emon after his first budget workshop as county warden.
Emon, who was acclaimed warden in December, said he was particularly satisfied the budget won’t mean compromised services to Renfrew County residents.
The one exception may be the homelessness portfolio, which will have a shortfall in government funding of about $395,790. Child care services will also have a shortfall, of $395,091, but a four-year government mitigation grant will decrease this year’s actual childcare shortfall to $90,000.
As social services director Dave Anderson said the first day of the budget workshop: “It will probably mean servicing more people with less money.”
SEVERAL BUDGET CUTS
To pare the county’s tax levy down to 2.0 per cent, county council found savings of $234,514, primarily with the following moves:
• not approving the creation of a supervisor for Arnprior’s new Ontario Works office;
• reducing capital reserves from the county to the Renfrew County Housing Corporation;
• reducing the amount of scratch coat work on roads by about $50,000, but while providing the same amount of scratch coating as in 2012;
• reducing contributions to paramedic reserves by $100,000 (still leaving $2.4 million in those reserves); and
• cancelling $10,000 in renovations for the Lake Street provincial offences office in Pembroke.
Emon says he’s pleased with the budget because it’s fiscally responsible, keeping taxes low, improving the quality of road infrastructure and not reducing the quality of county services.
The budget also allows the county to maintain a reasonable level of reserves, at about 20 per cent of the county’s overall operating budget, when the provincial government recommends at least 15 per cent.
“It’s a progressive budget with all kinds of service improvements, but it is also extremely sensitive to the current economic climate.”
With such a low increase in the tax rate, for the county’s portion of the total tax bill, Briscoe says, “Now we’ve got space for the lower tier. We don’t start out with a great big bill, so every lower-tier municipality will be ever so grateful.”
The county’s tax rate was also made knowing the education portion of the tax bill is dropping. For a home valued at $100,000, the homeowner’s education portion of the tax bill is dropping from $221 to $212.
The Renfrew County portion of the tax bill will rise about a dollar from last year’s bill of $367.43.
The other third of the tax bill will come from each taxpayer’s home municipality.
Last year, lower-tier municipality tax levies ranged from a decrease of 2.7 per cent (over 2011) in Deep River to a 30.6 increase in Brudenell, Lyndoch and Raglan and a second highest hike of 10.8 per cent in McNab-Braeside.
Other local municipalities’ real impact to taxpayers in 2012 included levy increases of 10.6 for Greater Madawaska, 9.8 per cent for Admaston-Bromley, 7.0 for Horton, 6.8 for Bonnechere Valley, 2.7 for Renfrew and 2.5 for Arnprior.
The budget workshop featured substantial discussion about restructuring of the public works department. There is no financial impact on public works services to develop long-range programs.
This will be done under the new structure, as capital works manager Mike Pinet assumes the title of infrastructure manager.
There will be some other reclassification of jobs to accomplish the restructuring.
Eight newly-created positions, in various county departments, will cost the county an estimated $200,000. Those positions, and increased work hours for some existing jobs, include:
• creation of a new project engineer, in public works’ infrastructure division, after eliminating the position of an operations technician, for an increased cost of $8,100;
• increased hours for a part-time administrative assistant at Bonnchere Manor;
• a new part-time accounting clerk for Miramichi Lodge for $24,535;
• more hours for a part-time Wheels on Meals position at Miramichi Lodge at a cost of $4,307;
• increased vacation-pay entitlement of 380 hours (or $16,300) for paramedics;
• creation of a part-time general clerk/treasurer for the provincial offences staff for $26,361; and
• creation of an asset management co-ordinator for property and development at a cost of about $70,000.
Another major point of discussion in the budget workshop was the allocation of $328,000 to pave the shoulders on 13 kilometres of roads.
According to the county’s capital works plan, road shoulders to be hardened to facilitate cycling and walking will include 5.6 km. along County Road 8, between Cobden’s downtown CPR crossing to Barr Line, at a cost of $135,000; 3.6 km. of County Road 42 (Forest Lea Road) in Laurentian Valley for $106,000; and 1.9 km. along Highway 62 in Madawaska Valley for $60,000.
The other roads are 0.8 kms. of County Road 1 (River Road) in McNab-Braeside and 1.1 km. of County Road 10 (Division Street) in Arnprior.
This work is part of the county’s commitment to support an active transportation strategy in conjunction with Physical Activity Network members, which include the county. The $328,000 for shoulder hardening will come from county reserves.