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Council adopts 2.57 tax increase in 2013 budget

Prince Edward County Council has adopted a $49 million operating and capital budget for 2013. In 2013, taxes will increase by 2.57 per cent or $26.97 for each $100,000 of residential assessment.

The operating budget of $43.9 million and capital budget of $5.5 million results in $27.7 million net taxes to be raised – a 5.01 per cent increase over 2012.

“While the goal of the operating budget is to maintain and enhance service levels, this long range financial plan addresses the growing and critical need to maintain infrastructure and plan for future requirements,” said Mayor Peter Mertens. “Both budgets contribute to pursuing council’s goal of a sustainable, long-term financial picture for the County. ”

The County’s 2013 municipal tax rate increases 1.70 per cent over 2012.  Increases in 2013 are largely attributed to improvements to both customer service and service levels, including the implementation of a customer service excellence program with a dedicated customer service coordinator; increased staffing at McFarland Home and community centres; the introduction of an organics program; and increased transfer to roads reserves.

The County, in a statement, said the 2012 corporate realignment process continues to provide opportunities for the municipality to improve overall budgeting efficiencies, such as:
• 2012 budget surplus of $850,000 – $350,000 of which will provide seed funding for a new Capital Sustainability Reserve, and $500,000 which will contribute to reducing ratepayers 2013 tax requirements
• Estimated savings resulting from decreased employment ($970,000) and operating costs ($67,000)
• Long term savings from municipal buildings deemed surplus, and reduced ongoing employment costs from previously eliminated positions.

“In 2012, we examined the way we were delivering services and realigned our corporate structure – resulting in a more effective and efficient organization,” said Mertens. “The 2013 budget demonstrates that our financial picture has substantially improved during this term of council, and these developments have positioned the municipality to achieve long-term financial sustainability.”
Details of the Operating and Capital budgets can be viewed on the County website.

PE COUNTY FACT SHEET:  BUDGET 2013

• There is currently $3.9 million in the Capital Sustainability Reserve which will continue to grow and will be used to address the County’s infrastructure deficit over time.
• A new Tax Rate Stabilization Reserve in the amount of $750,000 has been created, intended to:  o Minimize year to year fluctuations impacting the municipal tax levy o Allow budget to be completed prior to the budget year o Reduce borrowing requirements.
• In addition to reduced employment costs ($970,000) and operating costs ($67,000), savings from the realignment will continue to increase following:  o Outstanding staff reduction of two eliminated positions, scheduled to occur in mid-2013 and 2014 o Decreased operating costs and sale proceeds from buildings deemed surplus.
• New construction in 2012 resulted in year-end growth of 1.63%, generating $438,000 in tax revenue for 2013.
• Included in this budget are the funds for the 2013 redesign of the Prince Edward County Municipal website. This project will realize many necessary improvements to the County’s website, including but not limited to:
o Allowing for online scheduling, booking, and payments for County services
o Implementing online components of the County’s Customer Service Excellence Plan including Customer Inquiry Tracking
o Meeting Accessibility standards as required for 2014  o Easily identifying County programs, services, and appropriate staff contacts
o Enhancing the County’s ability to engage stakeholders online by offering a more user-friendly web presence.

 

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  1. m york says:

    Marnie, You have an excellent idea there. If the taxpayers can figure these things out then why are Council so eager to turn a blind eye?
    I damb near fell off my chair this morning when I heard on the radio that after last nights council meeting they had decided trash their first decision to cut building cost, that it now will only apply to individuals on town services. So where is all these problems coming from, (HELLO) its called idiotic indecisiveness to make a decision and stick with it. Apparently the vote was 7-8 and I am waiting to see who voted for what. Its these kinds of things that make council look like a bunch of teenage children who change their mind when their friends are upset with them for doing so. THIS IS WHY WE NEED TO CUT COUNCIL NUMBERS, we cannot continue on this road.

  2. Marnie says:

    Doris has made an excellent point. She and Paul Boyd who were both candidates in the last election pledged to put the brakes on spending. Voters chose to elect the big-time spenders instead. Until the electorate finally sees the light and says enough nothing will change. We simply cannot afford the high taxes and fees imposed to pay for the new sewerage treatment plant, Wellington arena etc. A large grant to the Regent was not justified either. Maybe it’s time council told groups like this that they will match whatever funding they can raise up to a specified maximum. Ever notice that once these groups start to get big grants they stop or cut down with a lot of their fund raisers?

  3. m york says:

    Doris & Mark, Unfortunately we cannot put all the blame on Council. Its been the mngt. team Commissioner of Public Works and the Director of water who’s head’s should be rolling as Council only gets their information from them. Yes, Council should be held to some amount of culpability I agree but a clean sweep needs to occur in order to even begin such a task. Good luck with that!!!

  4. Doris Lane says:

    RIGHT ON M YORK BUT WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT IT.
    I RAN FOR COUNCIL AND HAD ONE ISSUE “STOP THE SPENDING” BUT I GUESS NO ONE LIKED THAT ISSUE.
    So now we have a council that keeps spending and spending but it is not just this council it seems to be the trend since we amalgamation.
    Napanee did not amalgamate their county governments nor did they amalgamate their hospital.
    anyone want to move to Napanee??

  5. m york says:

    This is just a start of whats to come for P.E.C., and its due to many things including lack of knowledge, overspending, etc.. Shire Hall knew there were big issues facing them over a year ago and choose to turn a blind eye to it. Everyone was told that there were going to be Great changes, yet it didn’t even touch mngt. level or at least to the depths of where a lot of these troubles were coming from. Its a case of individuals protecting individuals and not what needed to be done, COMPLETE OVERHAUL. Its exactly the same as the vehicle issue, Shire Hall is and has been aware of some issues but have chosen to turn a blind eye to it. Who can afford to use the water (no one) but its not just the water dept. that is in financial difficulty its the whole County

  6. Doris Lane says:

    $30,000,000–Gary mooney mentioned about getting some assistance forsomething like that–we sure need it–the town of picton cannot sustain it.
    It is not our fault that council did it all wrong with the water and wastewater thing.
    There was a rumour that consumption has gone down–I wonder why???

  7. Mark says:

    Councillor O’Brien is quoted in todays Belleville Intell as saying that the water & wastewater debt is almost $30,000,000. Can you believe that? How can that ever be paid off by a user fee? Is it just a matter of time before people get out of Dodge?

  8. Mark says:

    The point is that the 2.57% tax increase is misleading. Put the real increase on top of the user fee increase and you are into a range that is not only unsustainable going forward but may have immediate serious impacts for low income families. And I am not certain yet how the new MPAC property assessments have played into these numbers. Property assessments can increase without taxes increasing as it is the municipality that sets the rate.

  9. Marnie says:

    County Live does a terrific job of giving taxpayers a chance to speak their piece Gary and you speak at length so lighten up. Everybody makes mistakes, even you. Keep your pants on and I’m betting you will see a correction if it’s required.

  10. Gary Mooney says:

    I complained about the headline “2.57 tax increase” to CountyLive and got this reply, “Yikes. That’s all highly confusing..” but no change in the headline.

    If it’s highly confusing for CountyLive staff, it may be even more confusing for their readership.

    This is not good enough. Errors should be corrected.

  11. Marnie says:

    Kind of sad that almost all of the locals once involved with the theatre have bowed out. They were the ones who really started the ball rolling.

  12. m york says:

    An article written in the County Weekly News, written by Louise of the certainly nailed it on the head. She says, “Don’t get sold down the river by non-local people that have been hired or elected here, they do not have the same interest as the local people do, nor is there any sentimental feelings for the people of the County or the County itself”. The article touches on issues that are important to the people: hospital, fishing, contracting out, council size etc.. I so agree with her that until this practice stops the we will continue to have to change our ways for people who just don’t get it… * NOTE I am only talking about the people who only move here temporarily, as a stepping stone for their career.

  13. Doris Lane says:

    Sorry about the typos in the last article.
    Marnie I think I was the last local at the regent.
    We are a dying breed but it is interesting that most of the council ,are locals except the mayor and a couple of others

  14. Doris Lane says:

    Marnie not quite the way it was. A couple of people put a mortgage on their house to purchase the regent from the Cookes. Then Edna pierce left money to pay off that mortgage so in essence Enda purchased the regent from the cookes.
    Now the foundation has a large mortgage that they got in two stages to pay off a lot of debt that the regent had from two individuals who ran the regent and finally they had to leave nd the regent foundation was left with a lot of debt which to my knowledge is still in place. As I said before I have nit been involved in the regent for a few years so have not attended the annual meetings for awhile. I must out the letters O&OE after my remarks as there may be some errors in my statement.
    Now someone will say this is not the place for these comments but the Regent like other organizations do affect the budget.
    Love that million dollar fire truck that John Thompson mentioned. This is a very small community with not a lot of businesses. Just go north of Belleville and see all the industry there, and yet some organizations want as much from us as larger municipalities.
    When I was younger the population of Picton was 5000, now the sign outside the town says 4000. Yet we have the huge expense of a new water plant and a new sewer plant which the whole council voted for and only Picton residents get to pay for.(not this council put them in)

  15. Marnie says:

    Doris the late Edna Pearce Gordon widow of Ted Pearce paid the mortgage off several years ago. Her identity was kept secret until after her death. That’s why there is a big portrait of her in the Regent lobby. Almost all of the locals originally involved in the theatre are gone now. Wonder why?

  16. John Thompson says:

    Many items are required and cost what they cost. Nothing can be done about that. However, there are some large items of dubious value in the budget. For example, the majority of Councillors continue to approve of a large amount of money going into a reserve to purchase a 100 foot ladder truck for the Fire Department. This purchase will cost over a million and could be helpfull in fighting fires in high buildings. We just don’t have a lot of high rises though so do the math!

    The minutes of the meeting will show the recorded vote and we will be able to see which Councillors were willing to stand up for the rate payers.

  17. Doris Lane says:

    Marnie I do not think the mortgage has been paid off at the Regent. The Regent should have been
    bought out by a private owner like the Empire. I was involved in the regent for quite awhile a few years ago but I have lost all interest in it. A lot ogf local perofrmers go to Tabour and some to the Anglican church and others churches.
    Gary maybe the county should apply for assistance with water/sewer. There are many residents of Picton who cannot afford these high rates. we only have one council member who lives in Picton and she is a single occupant of her house, I believe. Imagine the water bill of a large family?

  18. Gary Mooney says:

    Re water and wastewater, I posted quite a lot of info as comments to an earlier CountyLive blog post (see http://www.countylive.ca/?p=34025).

    Every business in Picton and Wellington pays for water and wastewater treatment, and this cost shows up in the price they charge for goods and services, which cost is paid for by their customers, whether they come from Picton or Ameliasburgh.

    The provincial government requires USERS to pay directly for water and wastewater treatment. This cost cannot be covered in whole or in part by municipal taxes.

    There is no doubt that water and wastewater charges for town water and wastewater treatment are at the extreme end for Canadian municipalities. But that’s what is necessary to pay for the capital and operating costs incurred by County government.

    I read earlier (but can’t find it now) that there is provision for a municipality to apply for financial relief if its combined water and sewer charges are determined to be unaffordable according to specified criteria. This should be checked out.

    Otherwise, residents on town water and/or sewer are stuck with these high rates.

  19. Marnie says:

    Jethro we do not “all” enjoy the Regent theatre. The tickets for one upcoming show are $57. each. I don’t think many folks earning minimum wage will be attending this event. It’s great if patrons of the arts want to support a theatre but why should they expect the community at large to pay for their special interests? The mortgage on that place was paid off once but somehow they have their hands out yet again. Opposition to wind turbines is based on health concerns and concern for wildlife. These issues are a lot more important than movies. The Regent is great if you can afford it but in point of fact it does not seem viable without increasingly large handouts from the taxpayer to prop it up. Where does it end?

  20. Doris Lane says:

    If people taking our water from Picton do not pay wastewater fees then we should not pay eithr
    You are correct Mark, this water and wastewater plant are too big a load for the Picton residents to pay for on their own. I just paid the w ater and the hydro bill and there goes any chance of buying something for myself.
    Council will have to decide to find a better way to fund water and wastewater. As has been said all the county uses water and wastewater in Picton when they come into our various locations that serve the public.

  21. Mark says:

    I have been thinking about this outrageous and unsustainable water costing for sometime. First off I may be wrong but here are some thoughts on this user only system. Picton residents do not to themselves own the water filtration plant or the wastewater plant and infrastructures. These are County owned. Picton is the hub of the County and because of a municipal water supply it is home to businesses, a hospital, a secondary school etc.etc. These are services that most all County residents desire, use and benefit from. However the taxes from these services for the common good do not support the water and wastewater infrastructures. This is left on the backs of the town residents in way of user fees. They are paying to provide services to the broader tax base while all these services place a cost strain on the infrastructure. Further wastewater fees are calculated by the amount of water used regardless if it is disposed of via the wastewater system or not. If I chose to use 200 gallons of water on my garden I would still pay wastewater fees for that water that never entered the sytem. It makes me wonder what users (majority rural)of the towns filling stations are charged. We all see truck after truck filling up. Are they charged just for the cost of water or are they charged wastewater fees as well to support the infrastructure. I am not yet convinced that a user only fee system to support the water supply and disposal is equitable or fair.I would be interested if someone knows these answers.

  22. m york says:

    Its piss poor mngt. to say the least. If you talk to others who have previously worked in this dept. there is NO REASON rates should be this high. You have individuals working in these depts. that have had NO previous experience in the field, and ONE person calling ALL the shots. What does that leave us, INCREASES !!!!
    In regards to taking the vehicles home, as everyone knows this has been a very hot topic for many. However, COUNCIL continues to ALLOW them to do as they wish. Policy’s obviously means nothing so until changes come from the top nothing will ever get done. I would suggest that EVERYONE pick up the phone and make calls to Council, overload the phones at Shire Hall, that is IF you can get anyone to answer the phone there!!!

  23. Gary Mooney says:

    Mark, it may be that wastewater rates are going up about 20% while water rates are staying pretty level, with the combined rate increasing 8.4%.

  24. Mark says:

    I thought water rates were going up 8.4%. The Intel is reporting a 20% increase. Who would really know as this budget is smoke and mirrors. They won’t tell the ratepayer the real increase as John has explained.

    Here is the Intel story with council and ratepayer comments.

    http://www.intelligencer.ca/2013/03/21county-taxes-on-the-rise

  25. John Thompson says:

    To quote Kevin Page, the retiring parlimentary budget officer, “I don’t know that the ruling class sees the value of transparency.”

  26. Gary Mooney says:

    John, thank you for pointing out the difference between 2012 budget and 2012 actual. As you state, the amount to be raised in 2013 will be 8.5% above the amount actually needed in 2012. Seventeen times the CPI increase for 2012!

    And to Jan, thanks for making the point about reporting the substantial increase in combined water and sewage rates for 2013 over 2012. The combined water and wastewater charges are rising by 8.4% for 2013 — also 17 times the CPI increase. (See an earlier article on CountyLive at http://www.countylive.ca/?p=34025.)

    Reporting by County government on its annual budget should absolutely cover both services funded by municipal taxes and services funded by user fees (mainly water and wastewater).

    These increases are truly shocking, and are unacceptable.

  27. Doris Lane says:

    Jan I think that we will all have to stop taking baths,washing clothes,and doing dishes.
    What I can’t understand is why my water/sewer bill is higher now than in the summer–because I did water the flowers a bit then.

    Remember jan they are buying 5 new trucks to drive to the casino with.
    This taking trucks home at night should stop –why should we pay for gas for their transportation needs.
    The people in Picton are getting hit harder than the rest of the county. Guess it is time to move back to the country but then I can’t do that as someone might put an IWT up next dooor to me

  28. Jan says:

    I have read through this article twice and I see absolutely NO mention of the 20% increase in our water bills. WHY has this significant and ridiculous increase not been highlighted in this article? A 20% increase is outrageous!! How are people expected to pay this exorbitant amount?

  29. m york says:

    Gary, Its all called propaganda as I have said before. Go back to when the Mayor/CAO said they were going to re-structure x amount of jobs. Then have a look and see how many new jobs (mostly mngt. positions) have been created lately, hmm something doesn’t add up??? I’ve been keeping track of all of this information in order to present it at the next election meeting. I am also keeping track of who is hired, their position and where they came from also to prove that this succession planning does not apply to P.E.C. employees/residents.
    The customer excellence program that the Mayor talks about is not only laughable but the most embarrassing for them. I have NEVER heard of so many complaints coming from individuals trying to reach a dept. with no response for days, weeks or even at all? I would be extremely embarrassed to have reported that comment (Mr.Mayor) but then again maybe the reports don’t make it up to your office?

  30. jethro says:

    Doris-Why did you and all your friends think council should donate money to your objection to wind turbines but not to the Regent Theater which we all enjoy or any other organization

  31. John Thompson says:

    – The numbers above report that $27,700,000 is to be raised from taxes

    – As this is 5.01% over last years tax levy, the 2012 levy would have been $26,378,461.

    – $850,000 was not spent from last year. Therefore, last years spending from property tax was $25,528,461. I suggest that budgeting should be based on last years actuals, not last year’s budgeted amounts.

    – The shocker is that this year’s taxes to be raised are $2,171,539 over last year’s spending, an increase of 8.51% over the 2012 actuals. The education portion was reduced or the increase would have been even more.

    Just wondering if this type of spending is the administation’s idea of sustainability?

  32. Gary Mooney says:

    Here’s the more appropriate headline for this article: Council adopts a tax increase that is 10 times the CPI increase.

    Council is presenting the increase as 2.57 percent based on $100K of assessment. This is misleading, because the average assessment is going up, so Council is getting a partial “free ride”.

    It is more meaningful to look at the percentage increase in the total tax levy — the net taxes to be raised — which is 5.01 percent. Compare this to the increase in the Consumer Price Index for 2012 of 0.5 percent. So County municipal tax inflation is 10 times that of the CPI.

    The County downsized by eight people during 2012, and yet the total tax levy is increasing significantly. What’s up with that? Enquiring minds want to know.

  33. Doris Lane says:

    I resent all the organizations that the council gives grants to. Those grants are our money. We have to pay so much for water and sewer that it makes one wonder why we have no money left to spend on ourselves.
    As they said on TV there is only one tax payer for all the different taxes. Maybe council should think twice before they give away our money.

  34. Marnie says:

    Yes, how indeed can people earning minimum wage pay all of these high fees? These charges are a crushing burden and while taxes and fees rise, their pay cheques reflect no significant increases. The situation is spiralling out of control and is bound to reach a crisis point. Council happily votes a large grant to the Regent whose prices those minimum wage earners probably can’t afford and never stops to think of what it must be like for the people with modest incomes. Nothing is ever enough for that theatre. If they get new seats and air conditioning they want a state of the art sound system. They get it and now they want a manager. Where does it end? Yhe mayor called the Regent a jewel. It’s starting to look like fool’s gold.

  35. Mark says:

    Another tax increase supported by a mayor that ran for election on zero tax increases. Revised MPAC assessment values already clawed away more than the announced increase. Pay increases for a council that is about twice the size than what is required in comparison to neighbouring municipalities. And the real killer a 20% increase in water and wastewater. Those kind of fees are unreasonable and will drive residential development out of Picton. How does the minimum wage earner meet these water costs when they are trying to put food on the table and feed the family? They cannot handle the average $200 water bill. Policing needs to have an overhaul as their costs have run rampant.Does little Prince Edward County really require a police force of 50 driving big SUV’s? How can that be justified. Discussions with neighbouring municipalities in regards to policing needs to take place

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