Lambton County councillors have settled on a 1.9-per-cent hike in this year’s country property tax levy.
The increase sat at just above three per cent when Thursday’s county budget session began but it was reduced by spending cuts totaling $367,000 and a $482,000 cut in the amount of money going this year into reserves.
“I’m happy with this,” said Enniskillen Township Mayor Kevin Marriott, who had earlier called for any increase to be held to inflation.
“I guess we can’t quibble over a tenth of a per cent.”
Marriott said he appreciated that his fellow county councillors agreed on the need for reductions.
County council began its budget review at a meeting on March 7 when it decided to pause and ask staff to look for savings.
“I just believe that three per cent was unacceptable,” Marriott said.
“I strongly believe we have to keep at inflation. There’s no reason not to.”
County staff came up with seven potential cuts and council approved six of them, including eliminating this year’s $75,000 contribution to Lambton’s Creative County Grants program, reducing spending on new software, delaying issuing debt for some completed projects, eliminating a vacant clerical position in court services and not filling three maternity leaves at the public health office beyond six months.
County also accepted a plan to not fill a vacant project manager post for immigrate attraction and instead ask the Sarnia Lambton Economic Partnership to re-assume its traditional responsibility for the work.
“I think we ended up in a good spot,” said Warden Bill Weber, mayor of Lambton Shores.
“I think we’ve maintained our services in the county, and going forward we’ll look at how we can find efficiencies.”
Marriott said he believes there are still places in the budget where the county and its staff can look for ways to hold future tax levy increases to inflation.
He said county taxpayers are living with wages rising at the rate of inflation, or less.
“Our target of the rate of inflation shouldn’t be a problem,” Marriott said.
Information on 2018 tax rates determining what residential property owners, and property owners in other categories, will end up paying this year is scheduled to go before county council in April, said finance general manager John Innes.
Property tax bills are made up of local municipal and education tax levies, along with the county tax levy.
The county expects to spend approximately $213 million this year delivering a long list of services to it 11 member municipalities, including county roads, landfills, public housing, public health, long-term care, child care, welfare, libraries, museums, an art gallery, provincial offences court, planning services and others.