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Core services and pandemic relief focus of County’s 2021 budget

Municipal tax payers will see a 3.17 per cent tax increase next year and some extended relief for those struggling to pay bills due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The increase (1.47 per cent after assessment growth) was approved Thursday for an operating budget of $59.8 million and capital budget of $9.7 million.

Assessment growth is the sum of all changes that happen to the tax base during a year, including new construction, major renovations, demolitions and property value appeals. At the end of the year, all final property values are added up and subtracted from the original tax base. The year-over-year difference is the assessment growth.

The budget results in an estimated increase of $18 per $100,000 of assessment. On a home assessed at $300,000, a home owner will pay an estimated $2,745 per year or $228.76 per month.

The 2021 net operating budget is $1.28 million more than 2020 (3.17 per cent increase).

Consideration was given to increase the levy to focus specifically on road reserves. Mayor Steve Ferguson noted this was not the year to add to roads reserves, due to the community’s insecurity about money, jobs and health that is likely to continue into 2021.

“With the municipality as well as our residents and businesses continuing to face financial pressures due to COVID-19, the County’s 2021 budget focuses on delivering core services and value for ratepayers,” he said. “In addition, the budget includes measures that augment the pandemic support programs offered by federal and provincial governments.”

The municipality will raise $41.5 million in property taxes to fund the portion of the operating budget not covered by other revenues sources such as grants and fees.

Council also passed the rate-supported operating budget for water and wastewater services of $8.8 million and capital budget of $6.5 million.

Water and wastewater rates will continue to follow the rate schedule set by council in 2017. Rates increase in January.

The County will continue to suspend penalties and interest on unpaid property taxes and water and wastewater bills until April 30, 2021.

Council also directed staff to draft a report exploring the development of a program to assist community members economically impacted by COVID-19 shutdowns and public health measures. The program would look at helping residents navigate tax and benefit programs provided by other levels of government.

The municipality will also continue to offer access to large municipal buildings at no cost to not-for-profit organizations and public health groups to host events or activities within public health guidelines.

Council approved spending $3.1 million for the rehabilitation of Picton Main Street from Bridge Street to Spencer Street using Federal Gas Tax funding. It will spend $2.4 million for its rural road surface maintenance program.

Other highlights:
– $372,000 toward the redevelopment of Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital
– $278,000 for the first phase of the Crystal Palace revitalization
– $365,000 for affordable housing
– $239,947 in total for the three streams of the Municipal Community Grants Program administered by The County Foundation ($189,716 for grants over $5,000; $38,453 for in-kind grants; and, $11,778 for grants under $5,000
– $150,000 for land ambulance replacement

Council also decided Thursday if would refer the Recreation Outreach Center’s $100,000 request, and the Food to Share’s $18,850 rent relief request to the County Foundation’s grant process.

The final budget documents are to be posted on the County website next week.

Filed Under: Local News

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