| Feb 28, 2008

Feature Article - February 28, 2008

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Feature Article - February 28, 2008 Tax rate drops by 3% in Frontenac County budget.By Jeff Green

If tax bills are higher in Frontenac County this year, it won’t be because of an increase in education or county taxes.

The province has maintained the same education rate for several years, and when Frontenac County councilors passed their 2008 budget in Sharbot Lake last week, they managed to trim 2.91% from the levy to the Frontenac townships.

To illustrate the impact of the budget, the owner of a property valued at $100,000 will pay $264 in education this year, and $275 in County taxes, down about $11 from 2007.

The county and education rates will be added to the local township rate to determine municipal taxes.

In completing the budget process last week, county council had only a few loose ends to clear up, and these did not have a major impact on the overall budget. The big ticket items, Fairmount Home, the Frontenac Ambulance Service, and a payment for social services costs, had already been finalized.

The thorny, complicated issue of transportation was once again a major subject of debate at this final budget meeting.

Over the past few years, the county has helped the Rural VISIONS Centre in Sydenham provide transportation for needy children and seniors through a grant of around $20,000, and a similar grant has gone to the Child Centre in Sharbot Lake. These grants came from monies that the county was mandated by the Province of Ontario to spend on projects for needy families, a mandate that is being phased out in June of this year.

In addition, last year Frontenac County supported a transportation dispatch service, Rural Routes, to the tune of $36,500, and Rural Routes requested $40,000 for 2008.

Mayors Maguire and Gutowski of North and Central Frontenac have argued vigorously in favour of ongoing funding for Rural Routes, and Mayors Davison (South Frontenac) and Vanden Hoek (Frontenac Islands) have had major reservations.

A proposal came forward that the county continue to support Rural VISIONS transportation with $17,000, and provide $37,000 to Northern Frontenac Community Services, the parent organization of both the Child Centre and the Rural Routes transportation service.

Mayor Gutowski proposed an amendment which would have increased the grant to Northern Frontenac Community Services by $20,000, but the amendment was defeated.

South Frontenac Mayor Gary Davison then proposed that the county hold $20,000 in a reserve fund, to be allocated to transportation only if a process to develop a model for a county-wide transportation service can be developed by September of this year.

This proposal was accepted.

With transportation settled, Chief Administrative Officer Liz Savill then recommended that $25,000 be put towards a video-conferencing system for senior county staff, but this was rejected by council.

Before the final vote on the budget, Mayor Maguire informed council that he would not be supporting the budget because, in an earlier budget meeting, a request for $25,000 for upgrades to the Pine Meadow Nursing home had been defeated.

This was the second time in the past three years that Maguire has voted against the budget.

The budget was approved in a vote of 3-1.

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