All County, All the Time Since 2010 MAKE THIS YOUR PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY HOME...PAGE!  Friday, December 9th, 2022

Council adopts draft budget increase of 3.19 per cent

Mayor Robert Quaiff says his new council asked all the right questions to adopt a draft budget for the County with a 3.19 per cent increase. The 2015 increase is less than the 2014 increase of 5.5 per cent. The draft operating budget of $46.8 million, and draft capital budget of $10.5 million will require a net tax levy of $31 million. The 2015 draft budget increase will result in a tax increase of approximately $28 for each $100,000 in assessed property value.

“I am pleased that staff and council were able to develop a budget that addresses our need to maintain service levels while upholding our commitment to fiscal responsibility,” said Mayor Robert Quaiff. “Council asked all the right questions, a significant achievement considering we had only one previous Committee of the Whole meeting under our belt as a new council. This accomplishment demonstrates our willingness to work together over the next four years to meet the needs of County ratepayers in a cost effective manner.”

Budget deliberations began in late 2014 to minimize delays and support the rollout of capital projects in early 2015. The 2015 draft budget is to be finalized at a council meeting  Jan. 7, 2015.

Minimizing increases to the 2015 draft budget presented challenges due in part to significant unbudgeted dollars spent on winter weather operations last year. This negated the 2014 surplus available to apply to the 2015 tax levy – a benefit had coming into 2014.

The draft budget  includes an additional one per cent capital levy for roads construction and the majority of requests for community grants were approved. Draft budgets for Water and Wastewater Services were also adopted.

Quaiff said these budgets reflect ongoing financial challenges which include a lack of revenue growth, increased operating costs and substantial debt servicing costs. The 2015 rate increases were approved to include a 10 per cent increase in the base charge and a 7 per cent increase in consumptive rates. These increases are effective as of Jan. 1, 2015 and translate into an approximate $122 annual increase for the average household consuming 180 m3 (water and wastewater) and a $49 annual increase for households with water only service.”

Property tax figures for 2015 are to be determined once MPAC (Municipal Property Assessment Corporation) releases the 2015 assessments in the new year.

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  1. Sam says:

    Gary, to which services do you refer? Water and waste water are metered at the stores, municipal offices, library, theatre, etc. In the case of public buildings, the cost of utilities are spread across the entire tax base. For stores, their costs for utilities are incorporated into the prices of their goods or services and the costs are passed along to whoever purchases those goods or services. As has been pointed out, just because some of us live in the rural areas, doesn’t mean that we get a free ride. We still have to pay for our own water and waste water services (wells and septic systems and associated maintenance), and the cost for services that we use while we are in town are paid for the same way as the services that you use while in town and away from your home. None of are are getting a free ride.

  2. Gary says:

    I assume you do not use services in Picton.

  3. Oh boy says:

    Not all new faces. The few new faces have tried to put their ideas forward and have been met with NO’s from the “old” council that came back. and I don’t mean OLD as in age. ..just an observation.

    2) living in picton . I can hardly afford to turn the tap on or flush.
    trying to conserve. we are having to pay for Tourists

    the water is HORRIBLE . I wont drink it (like many others) I buy bottled.
    very strong over chlorinated pool smell
    other days its like swimming with fish. in the bath.

    they could look at other towns and see how they are managing
    One town I saw, uses a Surcharge for water consumption over a certain level (therefore businesss, and offices may pay more etc )

  4. Snowman says:

    Picton’s water/sewage woes started pre amalgamation when the old Picton town councils kept taxes and water rates low. How you ask? By spending NOTHING on infrastructure for years and years. Streets ,sidewalks sewer and water mains, all left to deteriorate. 75 yr old leaking water mains were replaced near Metro. 2 inch water lines on Union street!
    The list is almost endless. Who got to fix the mess? Every County Council since amalgamation has had 13 Councilors from OUTSIDE Picton, and every one of them has had to spend HUGE on Picton .Rural roads that were good 15 -20 years ago are a mess.Look at all the street work that has been done in Picton in the last 15 years, all which included water sewer replacement.Main, Bridge, Union Queen, Washburn. Yes Leo Finnegan’s first term was marked by indecision on the Sewage plant, because they listened to too many tree huggers that wanted a “green’ sewage plant(?) built.(By the time his second council got a hold of the issue, costs had sky-rocketed during/because of the 2008Federal/Provincial Infrastructure program)
    And you want me to help Picton with their monthly Water bills?? Really?

  5. Marnie says:

    It’s fine to support the cemeteries Chuck but council should monitor how the money is spent. Is it going for maintenance or is some of it being used for non-essentials? A $60,000 grant to Glenwood is not chump change. What if other independent county cemeteries i.e. Cherry Valley decide they deserve grant money? Council should not hand out big money without requiring an accounting of how it is to be used.

  6. Chuck says:

    I think Marnie should have run. It would have put an end to our cemeteries! Buried in olé naturael, milkweed and thistles! The savings she could put towards a new logo!

  7. Susan says:

    It’s hard to cut out the dead wood when you remove a couple and a couple come back. It is early but if the Picton water crisis is any indication they need to start to look at ways to create urban growth rather than throw up their arms and just lay out 10% increases. Picton is not growing and the few users cannot support the system. A 30 mill s..t plant that Finnegan dithered us into delay after delay is a white elephant.

  8. Marnie says:

    Oh but I thought the new slate of candidates was going to fix it all, age aside. They were fresh faces with new ideas. It seems they are fresh out of ideas before they even start. Some of them are young relatively speaking.

  9. Gary says:

    Young whipper snappers! Council has few if any one could describe as young. Perhaps youth could have rejuvenated a Council that cannot seem to arrive at solutions other than hit the ratepayers.

  10. Marnie says:

    So far I am not at all impressed by what the young whippersnappers have done.

  11. Emily says:

    It was an observation of being out of touch, the age is just matter of fact.

  12. Marnie says:

    You clearly stated that we did not need another “old timer” from North Marysburgh. Is that not an observation about the age of councillor Harrison?

  13. Emily says:

    That is incorrect. I do not disrespect older persons. Age is irrelevant as neither youth or aged equate intelligence. I said the comments were narrow minded and lacked understanding of the issues. He was quoted in the paper in regards to water rates “put it up 50% or whatever it takes”. I do not think that type of discussion is helpful to the issue at hand. I would disagree with that position if it was made by any councilor regardless of age.

  14. Marnie says:

    Emily, you sure have it in for anyone over 30. Harrison was a good councillor in years past and still has something to offer. The last thing we need is a roomful of inexperienced newbies. Your disrespect for older persons is showing. Being young does not automatically equate with being smart. But maybe you have to be older before you learn that.

  15. Mark says:

    County amalgamated in 98 but to sell it they kept townships and made them Wards. Ridiculous, amalgamate but try to keep the same structure. It hasn’t worked. One government elected by all is the only true democratic representative governance.

  16. Emily says:

    Councilor Harrison according to the newspaper stated put the water user fees up 50%, he had heard enough!! I assume he will no longer use Town services. The sooner they reduce the Council to 8 that represent a true County government rather than protecting old warn out and outdated townships we will be better off. We are locked into rural ward protectionism and it is way old. Time to have a true County government, one County, no wards and the electorate allowed to vote for their representatives. We do not need another oldtimer from North Marysburgh that is out of touch driving policy or making embarrissing comments about infrastructure!

  17. Susan says:

    For some Councilors to make a comparison of Picton’s water infrastructure needs to that of rural residents with a well and septic is narrow minded and a lack of understanding. Rural residents do not have an influx of residents and tourists using their water & wastewater services placing demands, strain and costs onto their systems. Picton’s system is very much in that situation. Add the services enjoyed by all such as hospital, community Centre, municipal offices,fire prevention, and stores for consumers, it is very much a different situation. This is also the supplier of bulk water trucked to rural residences for the cost of the water but not sewage. The water infrastructure is a benefit to the entire community.

  18. Mark says:

    I don’t use rural roads in many wards so cut me out of that tax take. I also do not use Mt. Tabor playhouse so cut me out of those roof expenses. You see the point of those examples. Everyone wants a town for a hub and a place to access services and supplies but they want none of the associated costs. Do you think tourists and any other non Picton resident places pressure on our infrastructure. You bet they do. When you come into town from Milford or Demorestville and have a dump you are further straining the infrastructure. 10 % rate hikes every year is not reasonable, sustainable or fair.

  19. Chris Keen says:

    Sorry, Phil. By your logic, since I don’t have kids in school, I shouldn’t be paying the (not insignificant) education portion of my tax bill.

    And, rural users do pay indirectly for water and sewage if they need their wells topped up or their septics pumped.

    On the subject of PEFAC I agree with you. This is no longer an organization that needs the occasional “grant”, it is an organization that now runs because it receives a “subsidy”. As such, it should be open to every County resident for a nominal fee of say $1 per visit.

  20. Wolf Braun says:

    Mark: “Those costs need to be shared across the tax base.”

    I’m with Snowman on this one. Cover my costs on well and septic maintenance and you’re on.

    Thx Phil for those numbers. Cheers

  21. Snowman says:

    I will gladly subsidize Urban water/sewer costs. Urban taxpayers can subsidize my water/septic costs which I calculate to be $1200.00 per year based on a 20 year life cycle for septic and water delivery/pressure system replacement and annual maint.
    Please send my check 3 times per year at tax time.
    I may be wrong but somewhere in all of this are some Federal and Provincial subsidies ,grants etc. that are only there for the benefit of system users .Not rural types like me. I may be wrong about this, but at one time User pay was mandated in The Municipal Act.( Just so rural ratepayers wouldn’t be shafted by urban dominated Councils) What do you say about that Mr Quaiff, who floated the idea a week or so ago, and Mr. St.Jean who likes the idea too.?

  22. Dayton Johnson says:

    To Phil: thank God someone else is recognizing this money pit!! I’ve preached this same complaint to Alyea, Proctor and now Ferguson. I’m all in support of the facility but to continue pouring funds into it and NEVER own it is crazy.I hope there’s a legal clause to recover our loss in case of a major catastrophe…but I doubt that.Not for the amount of money you have stated. PS. I was told by a councillor that PEFAC would never turn a profit and will always need funding,,they indicated it was cheaper that way. Figure that out!
    To Lenny: feeling bad about having to accept a pay raise? Understandable,, so why not step up and donate it every month to a worthy cause in the County? There are lots of them and challenge your fellow councillors to do the same…Use the tax right-off. It will make headlines.That will separate the chaff from the grain!!
    To Mark: understand your frustration but passing extra cost on to the rural taxpayer is not really fair.If water/sewer are getting unaffordable it’s not any of the consumers fault urban or rural.The numbers indicate usage is down in Picton etc.(because of cost I suspect) so County needs to cut costs somewhere else.

  23. Phil St-Jean says:

    On another subject.
    The reality is that infrastructure such as roads, buildings, arenas, parks or s&w treatment facilities are owned by THE COUNTY.
    We all share in the benefits development brings. We must also share in the costs.
    User pay for the services but equal share for the infrastructure costs.
    Maybe a fair trade off would be that urban residents not have to pay for all the rural roads they don’t use.
    Just saying.

  24. Phil St-Jean says:

    Unfortunately I couldn’t get you a clear answer. I wanted to know how many paid members but couldn’t find that. I do have a partial answer re: PEFAC membership.
    I had to pull it from their website. The vague answer was 2600 individuals used the facilities over 12 months. The even more vague numbers come when they count “visits”. (33,300)This is the new way of artificially boosting customer counts to make facilities look busier.
    On a sadder note it appears the lips will be hooked firmly to the trough for 4 years. The cost will just keep going up and there will be $20,000 added to the operating to assist with capital.
    After this term is done the new total for PEFAC will be over $1,000,000.
    I know we receive some value from many of the orgs. that get grants. BUT… I reiterate my earlier post.

  25. Gary says:

    The only answer Council has to water issues is raise rates on users every year. No research, no alternate approaches, no applications for relief, no plan moving forward. And next year the s..t hits the fan again. You were elected to find solutions not just pass on 10 % increases and throw up your hands. This issue requires immediate attention.

  26. Mark says:

    Council did not have the stomach to make the tough decisions necessary in regards to the capital costs and infrastructure for water & wastewater. Those costs need to be shared across the tax base. There is no way possible for the few users to sustain it. Common sense was put aside and the old rural vs urban won out again. Since Prince Edward County are now among the highest taxed water users in Canada has anyone thought of seeking relief? The very future of urban living or having a Town is at stake.

  27. Ian says:

    Dear “Lenny”:

    You don’t get to control where the debate occurs. We don’t have to voice our opinion on your Facebook page. We can do it anywhere.

    The first two things that you’ve done, since assuming office (as far as I’m aware) are: suggesting $50,000 be spent televising your council meetings; and voting yourself a pay raise.

    What are you going to do about the impoverished County people who have been pushed out of town, due to gentrification, back to the Heights, and away from grocery stores?

    Please give a mind to the most vulnerable of your constituents.

  28. Wolf Braun says:

    Lenny: ““On Council Wages: Not sure I made the right call”
    but… ”

    Perhaps if you shared with us your principles / values that you follow when making decisions that might help in our understanding where you’re coming from.

  29. Emily says:

    The optics on the raise are bad but it is nothing in comparison to the continual skyrocketing out of control water & wastewater hikes. That hurts every urban resident bigtime.

  30. kjb says:

    People in private business would like to have this policy too, but because of the economy their wages have been frozen, this is just another sample of politicians giving themselves a raise…….SAME OLD SAME OLD

  31. Marnie says:

    Nice to know that councillors have received a raise five minutes after many of them started the job. It’s unfortunate that the rest of us are not receiving similar raises in our pensions to help pay for it. Before we went to the polls we heard about how these new people with creative ideas to share were going to lead us into the light. What a joke. We are back to square one.

  32. Lenny Epstein says:

    Seriously, check out the Facebook page. I talk all about these issues on there (yes including the council pay issue).
    “On Council Wages: Not sure I made the right call but…The current policy has been to automatically raise Council pay by the Consumer Price Index each year. (This year 1.66%). At first, I was willing to freeze our pay as a symbolic gesture. After listening to the discussion I had a different perspective. The thing that made me think twice was the rationale for why the policy was put in in the first place- to keep this apolitical. It is easy to turn every issue into a grandstanding opportunity. I am sure I will be guilty of this at some point (if I haven’t already). In this case, our mayor and councillor pay is in line and comparable to other similar municipalities- so I voted to continue with a policy of consistency and non-politicization. Perhaps naive as the Countylive comments are already hacking away at it and it seems to be political regardless. As far as what the increase represents is about $250 for the year of 2015 per councillor for an annual salary of under 19,000$ per year.” I am going to sign off of comments on here for now. But please feel free to contact me directly if you have any issues of interest, or, even more beneficially, ideas for how to tackle some of these problems which are not easy to solve. Let us have productive discussion and citizen input. There are lots of smart people here. I want to hear your positive ideas and constructive criticisms.

  33. kjb says:

    Mr Epstein, you said you voted against the raise for Water and Sewage…but you did not tell us how you voted for the pay increases…Do you think that main street people who work for private business would get a raise after being on the job for less than a month and have not given any evidence that they are good at the job. You all knew what the salary was when you ran for office. I am certainly dissapointed with the decision…There really is no sense in voting because we get the same thing over and over again, no matter how diligent the candidates tell us they will be, nothing changes for the better.

  34. Lenny Epstein says:

    While I personally voted against the 10% base rate increase FYI, I was on the losing end of that vote. I believe everyone on Council understood the unsustainability of the current system and is open to creative discussions to re-examine the whole rate structure and operations. It was felt by a number of councillors that a major policy shift towards sharing the costs amongst all residents was an unfair thing to do without proper public discussion and consultation. I agree with that. We ultimately need to differentiate between capital costs that are in the interest of the broader County vs. operating costs that should be paid by users. There are many things that need to be looked at to right the ship. Not raising rates was seen as irresponsible given the situation and would only make things worse by putting it off. So, this is a stop-gap. I understand too the hardship of it for people in low/fixed income situations. I know it is fraught with problems but I plan to put forward looking at a relief program for those in need. I get that if people move away because it is unaffordable to live in Picton, we are no further ahead.

  35. Susan says:

    Hi Lenny. Admirable of you to join the discussion. The facebook forum however may not be so well received by the audience. When campaigning and elected you were well aware of water & wastewater being a key issue for Picton residents. What happened that once again placed an unreasonable (and annual) increase upon your constituents? What are the solutions other than continual tax increases? Is $150 – $200 a month fees just for water acceptable?

  36. Marnie says:

    Emily,I don’t think we can look for a lot of change with the new council. It’s time they stopped some of these grants. If these organizations cannot fund themselves they should not become a drain on the taxpayer. Some of these grants i.e. the cemetery grant began as strictly a bridging measure.

  37. Lenny Epstein says:

    Hi all, It is great to see continued passion on items of interest to our citizens.
    I invite any and all of you to “like” my Facebook page to follow conversations on all these issues. I ran on a platform of transparency and openness and will do my best to deliver. While I respect and support the role of the media, stories can’t necessarily reflect the totality of discussions. I am sure you won’t agree with me often, but I do invite your engagement with me directly too.


  38. Emily says:

    Well Marnie we knew for certain what the old faces did or did not do. I guess we now know that each and every Council will increase water rates 10% per annum. This will hurt middle to low income families, decrease consumption further which will lead to less revenue and negatively impact any urban development as the skyrocketing service charges scare people away.

  39. Marnie says:

    What happened, Emily? You wanted to see a lot of new faces around the horseshoe and now we have them. But it seems like the same old tactics are in play. Higher taxes, grants to groups and organizations that should be standing on their own two feet and very little consideration for the over-burdened taxpayer. The winds of change have blown the same old rhetoric right back in our faces.

  40. Lori Cairns says:

    Wow, that didn’t take long to break a tenuous trust, did it?

    Does anyone know the names of the four councillors who voted against the pay raise?

    I have come to the conclusion that there is no shame left on the municipal politics level. It has been that way forever on the federal and provincial levels, but municipal politics was more accountable. Now there is entitlement and greed right in our faces.

    What happened to doing the right thing and making the hard decisions?

  41. Wolf Braun says:

    I don’t use PEFAC ( I probably should )’cause I send an hour per day walking my dogs. 🙂

    How large is the membership Phil at PEFAC total or for each level?

  42. Phil St-Jean says:

    What a mess.
    Here we are 16 days into a new term and already they’re putting it to us. Another 10% increase for s&w and throw a tax hike into us too. This is just the beginning folks because if you look a little closer at the budget line by line you’ll see there is no forward planning going on either. No maintenance line items for any of the halls. No reserves either. I guess the ceilings in our halls will be the only thing coming down.
    Isn’t it also interesting that the first sound bite from one shiny new penny is that grants are less than 1% of the budget. Kinda gives you an idea where his head is. Given he thinks subsidizing residents to help them with their s&w bills will solve anything, shows he has no viable solutions to s&w problems. His answer is to throw more money at it.
    Hard decisions needed to be made.
    We cannot afford to spend money foolishly.
    Here’s a fact that I’m sure never came up during the grants ruminations. Proof that things have been out of control for a long time.
    PEFAC has been receiving grants from you and I for 10 years now. $170,000 in capital grants, $575,000 in operating grants plus another $60,000 this year.
    Here’s where it goes. $66,000 per year for rent. They have a triple net lease so all property expenses, maintenance,taxes capital improvements to property they don’t oown etc. are paid by the tenant. That’s a lot of tax payer money. Also No effort to purchase the property has been made.
    So now we’re up to $805,000 for something we don’t own !!!
    Grants are meant to be a hand up not a permanent hand out.

    The next four years are going to be a really rough ride.

  43. Emily says:

    The continual tax drain on water and wastewater is beyong reasonable. I would like the County to provide a cost comparison to other municipalities in this regard. That is a reasonable request. And I agree that all users of Picton’s water ie. water haulage need to be treated equally in paying sewage fees.

  44. kjb says:

    Also the people in Picton who go south for the winter still pay for sewage even though they are not using any water but still pay a flat rate for water…..When I checked last year to close all this down, It still was going to cost me a monthly fee as well as a shut down charge and a start up charge….we also have a pool and when we fill it, there is no sewage going out…I don’t mind paying for what I use but it does seem to be an unfair amount to pay for what I don’t use..Each water bill in the summer run at $500.00 plus and we are very conservative in our use…I certainly feel we pay more than our fair share for water

  45. Gary says:

    I realize that Sam. When residential users water lawns, gardens, fill a hotub, power wash a home, deck etc. this does not typically end up in the sewage treatment plant either but they are charged as though it went directly into the system. Picton rersidents are paying through the *** for water. We are hardly in a position to sell water at a reduced rate. The water trucked away all puts pressures aon our infratructure.

  46. Sam says:

    Gary, residential water rates include the cost of sewage treatment once the water goes down the drain. Bulk water typically does not end up in the sewage treatment plant, and so does not cost as much.

  47. Debbie says:

    Does it make the tax increase easier to swallow when it is less than last years increase? It is twice as much as the CPI for 2015 and this is unacceptable. When do we stop dishing out money to every group that comes to the table holding out their hand? This county is in big trouble with a huge deficit. A good start would be to audit each department and look for cost savings. Tell the managers that they will not be receiving the 5-10% pay increase. That would be a good start as well as ditching the plans for the splash pad.

  48. Gary says:

    Bulk water fees at our fill up stations need to change to the residential fees. Water is water and haulage of Picton water to rural residences should be costed equal to resident user fees. It all puts pressure on infrastructure, electrical costs and treatment.

  49. Mark says:

    The increase to water users is totally unacceptable. Same story and same increases every year. This on average 8 to 10 percent increase puts most 3 – 4 person households at approximately $1,600 a year for water & wastewater. It is not sustainable! Add to the fact that most purchase drinking water because the taste and smell of the municipal water is horrid. How can Council support such an increase? If you want fewer users and less consumption (which you don’t) you are pushing the right button. And it is one more big reason that discourages urban development.

  50. concerned says:

    most of us think the prices are high already. wow.

    you might find some money if you audit some of the senior managments. and how they spend money 1) hiring out of town temp employees and who is paying for hotels and wages.?
    or is that out of the seniors bank accounts at McFarland.
    very curious if you will find some “extra expenses”

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