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County begins 2017 budget talks Monday

It’s budget time for Prince Edward County and council is set to begin the week’s deliberations on the draft Monday, Dec. 5 and continue each day through to Friday.

The proposed 2017 operating budget of $33.2 million is an increase of $901,000 or 2.8 per cent over 2016. The proposed 2017 capital budget of $12 million is a decrease of $33.3 million from 2016. Last year’s capital budget was higher, largely due to funds budgeted for the rehabilitation of County Road 49, which has since been deferred.

The draft budget summary states the net tax levy required to fund the proposed 2017 operating budget is $33,165,700, an increase of $901,400 (2.79 per cent) versus the 2016 municipal tax levy. When estimated taxes from “real” assessment growth of $330,500 are included, the additional amount to be raised from existing taxpayers is $570,900 – an increase of 1.75 per cent. The proposed 2017 operating budget includes transfers to capital reserves for capital renewal in the amount of $5,046,700.

“It’s important to remember that these proposed budgets are the recommendations of staff. They will undergo extensive review by council throughout next week,” said Mayor Robert Quaiff. “Staff recommendations are based on expertise and understanding of the operational requirements of fulfilling Council-driven priorities and other legislated duties. Council will revise the budgets based on our assessment of what activities or goals should be prioritized.”

Monday’s meeting begins at 9 a.m. and focuses deputations and presentations from those requesting grants over $5,000.

Among the requests, council is to hear from:
-Paul Greer and David Smith, of the Wellington Cemetery Board requesting $12,000.
-Sandra Latchford, of Glenwood Cemetery, with a grant request of $60,000
-Penny Rolinski, of the Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital Foundation, seeking $60,000
-Ruth Ingersoll, of the Community Development Council Quinte, $7,500
-Deborah Simpson of County FM requesting $7,000
-Marilyn Toombs and Bob Schroen, of the Regent Theatre, with a $38,000 grant request
-Michael Smith and Hilary Fennell, of the ROC, seeking $50,000
-Susanne Barclay and Janna Smith, of the PE Arts Council, seeking $17,805 (including $3,000 in kind for use of the community centre hall).
-Brenda Snider and Amanda Witty, of Volunteer Information Quinte seeking $9,200 ($3,700 in kind for use of the Wellington Community Centre)
-Lynn Sullivan and Joan McBride, of Festival Players, are requesting $20,000
-Kailey Ellis, of the County Marathon, will request $7,500 in kind.

At about 2 p.m. council will begin its review of the capital and operating budgets following comments from the audience. Chief Administrative Officer James Hepburn is to provide an overview of budget 2017. Staff are also expected to provide an overview of the draft 2017 operating budget by department, and overviews of the water and wastewater operating budgets.

A link to the proposed 2017 Municipal Budget documents can be found on the home page of the County website.

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  1. Marnie says:

    I hear you, Gary, when you complain of the high cost of living in Picton. Council needs to cut the frills and do what it can to reduce costs. There are a lot of seniors living in this county who cannot afford higher taxes. Splash pads may be dandy but they are not essential. For those living on fixed incomes life is growing increasingly difficult. Picton started to dry up a long time ago when it lost so many of its original stores. The boutiques and high end clothing stores are lovely, but a lot of locals simply cannot afford their high prices. It’s similar to all of the new housing developments in the town – beautiful places but geared to those with money. Where is the affordable housing for seniors who may have worked a lifetime for little more than minimum wage?

  2. Gary says:

    Obviously once again it is a difficult concept to come to grips with or direct it’s about me refusal. The alternative is to drive everyone out of the town to a more affordable rural environment and let the Town dry up. And unlike rural folks our services and infrastructure are used and stressed by other non urbanites including rural. At the very least a significant increase for bulk water should be applied.

  3. Jim says:

    Has the county ever heard of a hiring freeze

  4. Marnie says:

    Gary – What’s in Picton? Just try and buy a lot of everyday items there. Main Street has lots of stores flogging non-essentials but try and find a lamp or mini-blinds or a man’s suit or sports jacket. The GT boutique does not cut it for a lot of things. It is necessary to turn to Belleville for many such items. As for that campaign to ‘shop local” even if it costs a few dollars more, with the price of hydro I cannot afford to pay extra bucks for items I can source outside the county for much less. Stop leaning on rural ratepayers to pay for your fancy new water and sewerage plant. We don’t use it or a lot of other town services such as streetlighting, sidewalks, and parks. We paid for and maintain our wells and septic systems and cannot afford to fund yours.

  5. Chris Keen says:

    @Gary – Spreading the cost of water and sewage across every County taxpayer’s property tax is neither defensible nor is it “progressive”.

    The businesses I patronize in Picton etc… add their costs of doing business – rent, sewage, water, hydro and so on, to the cost of the goods or services they provide me. As a customer I pay for this indirectly; I am helping these businesses cover their costs. That is my “fair” and “reasonable” contribution.

    I had to pay for my own septic, well, pump outs etc… I would never consider asking you for a contribution because you don’t use them!

  6. Fred says:

    How dare you Gary. We come in from the southern County by PT. Peter. We enjoy banking,health carservices, groceries,shopping,theater,recreation, senior care, restaurants, gas and vehicle repairs, municipal services etc.! Why would we ever consider assisting an urban area in a broader tax base. We will go to Belleville!

  7. Gary says:

    As stated and defended so many times prior, your reference to water & wastewater being spread across the broader tax base is truly defendable and progressive. Not at equitable cost sharing but definitely a portion. To rely upon an urban hub for most all essential services but contributing nothing towards unsustainable water services is not fair or reasonable. The alternative is to let the urban space demise and seek those numerous services in Belleville.

  8. County Steve says:

    When it comes to budget, everyone is all over the map, just like Council.

    Water rates are indeed a primary issue, and the problem was explained clearly on County Grapevine on County FM – yes, that worthless information source that might be worthwhile listening to.

    Council is hog-tied on this. It is user-fee based … the cost of operation is distributed only to the consumers. Sadly, the population of users is not large enough to distribute the costs at a reasonable price. The alternative would be to absorb it into the County taxpayer base, but you can bet that Ameliasburgh, Sophiasburgh and the entire south end would be up in arms.

    If mistakes were made, they were made at the capital expenditure end, with expansion costs exceeding what the population could reasonably absorb.

    There’s lots of justifiable outrage in the community, but not one suggestion for a solution.

    I also disagree with some of Council’s decisions, but they do need to look at a broader picture when it comes to allocating dollars to benefit the community. They can’t ‘cherry-pick’ their personal favorites, as Dennis suggests. Personally, I think County FM is a real boon to the County, and I’m proud of it. I don’t support it financially, but help in other ways when I can. Others may choose different great County endeavours for funding.

    Nothing has really changed since amalgamation, and subsequent cuts in provincial funding of municipalities. It’s still too many things to maintain, and too little money to do it.

  9. james says:

    Perhaps the Council in its deliberations could examine the feasibility as well as the propriety of requests:
    We regularly have droughts in the County with water rates continually on the rise, and yet the Council while threatening farmers who wish to water their animals, approves a splash pad to use precious, short supply water …

    We are informed that every single tree on Main St. must be replaced at huge costs. Why not replace trees when and if required?

    Perhaps these types of illogical decisions indicate why our taxes are unsustainable.

  10. Fred Flinstone says:

    Hey Barnie. We have a budget @ 3.25% but we can’t tell Wilma or Betty that the water costs are ñot decided. We have water costing more than property taxes but our little Council of 16 avoided it at every turn. When is the Council size OMB?

  11. Chuck says:

    Did Councilor Hull attend to budget deliberations today? I watched online and never saw him or heard from him. If he was there, there was zero input.

  12. Gary says:

    The vacuum truck that was presented as a cost savings to water costs was cut. Decision was to contract out repairs even though our County water staff have to attend and watch. Picton Councilor made a plea to have it included but was shot down
    There lies the problem with our Council makeup. Easier for rural reps to cut an urban cost saving to reduce immediate taxes on their home base. No one wants to address the elephant in the room! You have to cure the water issues or the Town will fail miserably with no development. There was no wisdom at that horseshoe to look at progress to solve the most critical issue. It has been put off and really hidden in this budget.

  13. Fred says:

    Oh hold on. Water rates will be going up big time. Just not determined yet. The $30,000,000 poop plant is killing a small town.

  14. lucy says:

    yes the water rates e
    d to be addresssed…………or help or

    many can hardly turn the water on
    it bothers me taxes go up when they wasted over 360,000 hiring temp workers for mcfarland thats the difference bet ween full time and temp agency

  15. lucy says:

    just read on inquinte site ……..that taxes are going up 3.5%……

  16. Gary says:

    Any word on water & wastewater coming out of the budget deliberations? This is meat and bones. We have 12% presently that cannot pay their current bills which are close to the most expensive in all of Canada.

  17. Chuck says:

    It’s not a for profit business but it provides a great service for the County. $7,000 is pocket change and there are much bigger fish to fry.

  18. hockeynan says:

    This radio station isn’t heard all over Ontario so how can it help Prince Edward County.It is just a local station.If I had a business I wouldn’t expect taxpayers to help.

  19. Gary says:

    MPAC told the County as reported that the revised property assessments because of error would be a minimal revision on average of less than 1%. Well mine received yesterday has increased 7.5%. Getting hit all over, energy increase, carbon tax Jan.1st, user fees, tax levy etc,etc.

  20. Susan says:

    The marketing and advertising PEC receives from having this community based radio station is an unbelievable bargain. $7,000 request should take about 5 seconds for Council to support.

  21. Marnie says:

    It’s a matter of priorities Chuck and I agree that certain needs of the living come first. However respectful maintenance of cemeteries should not take a backseat to some of the initiatives that are so enthusiastically backed today. The people buried in these cemeteries built our community. Soldiers who fought for our country lie in county cemeteries. A county radio station, theatre groups and splash pads are fine ideas but I believe cemeteries are equally deserving of county support.

  22. hockeynan says:

    I believe we should support cemeteries but not sure about the radio ststion.We have enough we can listen to out of Belleville

  23. Chuck says:

    I understand the emotional aspect of cemeteries. And I truly wish we all had the answers to properly support them. However personally speaking, life is for the living and anyways we can assist folks with life needs,trumps the dead.

  24. Marnie says:

    Chuck, a lot of cremations are scattered on private property or kept on the mantel. They never make it to the cemetery. I know that people have to pay their water and hydro bills but cemeteries should be as important to us as some of the cultural initiatives that receive county support.

  25. Olmanonthemtn says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more Chuck re: County FM, 7000.00 is a drop in the bucket considering the diversity of free musical entertainment as well as interest, informative and issue based programming my wife and I as seniors are getting a bargain and lets not forget how much is volunteer driven which allows us boomer seniors an opportunity to contribute to our community.

  26. Chuck says:

    Don’t most cremations go in a plot? No suggestions at this time, I just know I would rather help the living. If people have to pick water and hydro bills over cemeteries in order to put food on the table, I get that.

  27. County taxpayer says:

    Somewhat disconcerting to see the theatre back at the trough year after year.

  28. Marnie says:

    Any suggestions for cemeteries Chuck? Cremation has killed plot sales so the revenue has dried up. Operating costs remain the same. Libraries and cemeteries always get the short end of the stick when money is handed out.

  29. Chuck says:

    Thoughts on this;

    – Festival Players back at the trough after recently being rejected on rent owing. Perhaps not sustainable.
    – ROC looking for a small $50,000. Taxpayers already pay for this through Provincial funding.
    – Cemeteries need to find a way to survive since they support the dead that can’t pay!
    – Feel better giving to the living at the Food Bank.
    – The radio station is a huge County promoter and worthy.

  30. Dennis Fox says:

    You have made a good suggestion re: additional uses for our community centres. The point that I was trying to make was that a lot of money is being spent on a wide variety of uses – and yet not much (if anything) is being spent on one of the largest groups in the county – the over 65 crowd. I just feel that I am tired of paying for all the other groups out there and think it is high time that we start seeing something done for people of my generation. I’m not saying I’m unwilling to share – but sharing should be a two way street. Right? So why are we giving money to a radio station, or to a marathon event when we have seniors with no place to go for either very cheap or free activities. Most communities have seniors centres – all I am asking is why not PEC?

  31. Emily says:

    I have not heard of this great want for a Seniors Activity Center. What and where is being tossed out here? Could our 2 Community Centres not be utilized for such a service if it is a desire?

  32. Dennis Fox says:

    Just to clarify my “question” about the radio station – at this point it is not a criticism, only a question. My point is that while something may claim to be non-profit, that doesn’t mean it qualifies for a grant from taxpayers. I see such places as the Regent Theatre as being different because I see serving and attracting the public in many ways and if I want I can attend anything form movies to concerts and pay for them. But I do not recall at the time of its inception the FM radio station mentioning that they will be asking yearly for money from the taxpayers. I find it “interesting” that a number of councillors have regular radio programs and/or are heard being either interviewed regularly or advertising with the station for their personal business. Maybe instead of asking the taxpayers for money – why not charge a bit more for the radio ads??

    But for me, I would rather see my tax dollars used on paying for an activity centre for seniors, than on a radio station or on a marathon race. Maybe they need to fund raise just like a PBS station does or like the Boy Scouts do.

  33. Gary says:

    Looking forward to a rate reduction for water & wastewater since the Committee looking into this has been hard at work. This is an example of an item that requires to be priorized. The Mayor so eloquently said that Council needed to set priorities.

  34. Lori Cairns says:

    How in the world are so few taxpayers supposed to be able to pay out that much grant money?

    Some hard decisions need to be made. Paying for water, hydro and food is a huge struggle for some folks. Wallets are empty.

    Let’s see a budget based on that fact.

  35. Ken Globe says:

    Dennis, because it’s a not-for-profit radio station?

  36. Marnie says:

    Bravo, Dennis. We have a skateboard park and soon will have a splash pad but what do we offer our seniors? Their tax dollars help to fund these initiatives but what do they get in return.

  37. Susan says:

    Is the radio station request any different than the Regent Theatre or many of the others?

  38. Dennis Fox says:

    Why is a radio station asking for public funding to stay afloat?

    It would be nice to see at least the beginning if a plan – just a plan at this point in time that would start to address the needs of the largest and fastest growing demographic in the county – the need for a Seniors Centre. We have a new arena, we have a new fire hall and trucks, new roads and sewers – but not one municipal cent spent on a senior’s activity centre.

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