Jeff Green | Mar 09, 2006
Feature Article - March 9, 2006
Feature ArticleMarch 9, 2006
County budget deliberations delayed
by Jeff Green
The latest draft Frontenac County budget envisions a 10.75% increase in taxation, but the promise of increased provincial funding for ambulance service, and some alterations to reserve fund allocations that are being promoted by the Frontenac mayors, could see that increase fall by several percentage points.
The draft budget was presented to a special meeting of county council on March 1. Although the budget was considered in some detail at that time, many of the figures are still tentative because information about actual expenditures in 2005 was not yet available.
“We had difficulty with our old accounting system and have installed a new one which is much better, but this has delayed us in finalising 2005,” County Treasurer Marion Vanbruinessen told Council.
The draft budget calls for an increase of $847,000 in taxation, which would still result in a 10% drop in the tax rate, from $330 per $100,000 in assessment to just under $300 per $100,000 in assessment, because of an unprecedented increase in tax assessment throughout the county.
This fact did not impress the county mayors, however. North Frontenac Mayor Ron Maguire said the $150,000 increase in the amount to be transferred from North Frontenac Township is “unacceptable”. Sounding much like South Frontenac Mayor Bill Lake (now County Warden ) did last year, Maguire said, “I can’t go back to my council with this kind of increase once again. I can’t do it.”
Maguire said the county should question even small increases in order to bring the budget under control.
“I see an increase in the office equipment budget of $7,000. Noting that the budget included the purchase of a new paper shredder, Maguire asked of County CAO Elizabeth Fulton, “Can you not make do with the shredder you have?”
Central Frontenac Mayor Bill MacDonald thought that it is still too early to worry about the final outcome of the budget. “We don’t have enough information to know how this will all end up,” he said.
The ambulance budget illustrates MacDonald’s point.
The draft budget calls for an increase of $214,959 in the county’s share of ambulance costs, a 19% increase over last year, but Paul Charbonneau, the County Manager of Emergency Services, told council that he has been in contact with officials at the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, who have told him that the impact of a new funding announcement by the province will be clarified by the end of March, and new funding could mitigate increases to this year’s ambulance budget.
The draft budget lists $238,000 as income from the Federal Gas Tax Allocation, which is money that may not remain in the county’s hands. Both North and South Frontenac Councils have passed motions requesting that that money be transferred to the townships.
Notwithstanding all the uncertainty that remains, Central Frontenac Mayor Bill MacDonald told the News that he expects the county budget will be reduced to an increase nearer to 5% than the 10.75% increase in the draft budget, and said this will put Central Frontenac in a good position when they consider their own budget.
It would also placate Ron Maguire, and might be low enough to enable the county office staff to get their new shredder.