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Tax hike toward physician recruitment and better roads; debt for senior’s home deferred

A new operating budget for Prince Edward County will see a 7.9 per cent increase (about $60 on an assessment of $100,000) that supports physician recruitment and better roads, but defers the proposed $65 million H.J. McFarland Home redevelopment.

Council was reminded of the pressing need for $250,000 in physician recruitment funding due to the unexpected practice closure of Dr. Johannsson who died early February, leaving 2,000 patients without a family doctor. This, coupled with the expected practice closure of Dr. Laura Arul as of May 31.

Despite increased effort, CAO Marica Wallace told council at budget deliberations Friday, the county would not be able to have the design work completed in time to meet the provincial deadline and is therefore not eligible for recently announced accelerated provincial funding of about $42.2 million.

The 160-bed project will move forward, but council deferred taking on debt for the project to 2023. The goal now is to get the project shovel-ready before the end of this year as the municipality presses for further funding possibilities.

“The County, like many other municipalities, desperately needs provincial funding to redevelop our long-term care facility but cannot take advantage of this accelerated funding,” Mayor Steve Ferguson said. “Over the next couple of months, I intend to actively lobby the provincial government, the Minister of Long-Term Care, and our local MPP and strongly urge them to provide another round of accelerated funding in the future.”

With the funding there would be an annual one per cent ($420,000) added to the tax levy over 25 years, starting in 2024. Without the funding $56.7 million of the project would be financed with a five per cent annual tax levy ($2.4 million).

The Ontario government allocated 78 new beds to the County home in 2019 – the first beds following the closure of Picton Manor in 2012.

By the end of day Friday, council approved the operating budget of $71.6 million and the earlier set capital budget of $19.9 million.

“Despite facing a number of budget pressures beyond our control, council made the decision to maintain service levels and invest in high-priority areas such as health care and infrastructure,” Mayor Ferguson said. “Asking residents and businesses to pay more is never easy. That’s why we looked to save money wherever possible and expanded our financial relief program to help individuals and families who need it the most.”

Council also passed the rate-supported operating budget for water and wastewater services of $11.4 million. Water and wastewater rates will continue to follow the rate schedule set by council in 2021.

It also decided to continue the financial relief programs started last year as pilot projects to support low income households.

Households earning less than $32,240 (single income) or $64,480 (family income) will be able to apply to one of two streams of the program:

Qualifying tenants who pay for water and wastewater services can apply for a credit of up to $350 on their water bill.
Qualifying home owners can apply for a credit of up to $750 on their property tax account.

In addition, council directed staff to look at ways to provide a municipal financial relief grant to rural renters in 2024.

Additional budget highlights:

$427,390 to support several funding requests from community groups including:
Physician recruitment ($250,000, offset by $100,000 unspent in 2022)
Food security ($20,000, distributed to eight entities/programs)
Prince Edward Fitness and Aquatic Centre ($70,000)
Prince Edward Learning Centre Tax Program ($60,000)
Community Care for Seniors ($13,450 + $13,940 in-kind)
$2,224,700 for road surface maintenance and $598,500 for roadside maintenance in 2023.
Earlier this year, Council directed staff to transfer the majority of the County’s portion of the Municipal Accommodation Tax ($700,000) to the Reserve for Roads Construction
$247,069 in total for the three streams of the Municipal Community Grants Program administered by The County Foundation ($189,716 for grants over $5,000; $42,353 for in-kind grants; and, $15,000 for grants under $5,000)
$120,000 for a municipal lawyer with the funds coming from savings realized through a reduction in external legal fees

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

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  1. ADJ says:

    Taxpayers are stretched to the limit as far as increases. Council needed to trim all the “frills” to give us a breather. Council knows what I mean by “frills”. Food costs, travel, insurances, and all the utilities out there are driving the middle class deeper into a lower level of poverty. I don’t believe councillors are really devoting the time and effort here. It’s too easy to quickly pass it off to the tax payer. Talk to your councillor.

  2. Argyle says:

    How can Shire Hall justify a budget increase of 7%, when some other local municipalities can operate quite well with a 3 to 5 % budget increase? Most councils usually send the budget back to be re-worked to a lower percentage anytime the increase is over 5%, Apparently Shire Hell, the mayor, our council and CAO seem to believe that the County taxpayer is affluent enough to willingly pay whatever tax increase is needed to fund the expenses they see in their crystal ball.

  3. Fred says:

    The amalgamated governance at Shire Hall is a hungry machine that needs to be fed more every year. We had 25,000 population in 1998 and we still have 25,000 but the governance cost has skyrocketed with fewer services and more user fees. Amalgamation has not proven be to successful in any aspect.

  4. Chuck says:

    What terrible decisions that we have to live with as taxpayers. It is notable this only passed 8-6. Astounding is that we couldn’t put together a Long Time Care Home design in the next 6 months to access 41 Million in Provincial grants is unacceptable.

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