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City budget raises taxes 3%, targets aging infrastructure

Published on

George Mathewson

City council approved a budget Tuesday that raises taxes about 3% and directs more money toward shoreline protection, roads and other aging assets.

The $154.9-million spending package adds $25 in additional property taxes on each $100,000 of residential assessment, plus another $3 on properties inside the Transit Area.

Nearly all the increased spending goes to three things: staff wages and benefits, higher police spending, including four new officers, and money set aside in a reserve account for future infrastructure upgrades.

Council agreed to invest $2.25 million in shoreline protection next year, matched 40% by the federal government. Top priority is preventing Old Lakeshore Road from toppling into Lake Huron by adding stone revetments west of Helen Avenue in Bright’s Grove.

A $46-million capital budget drafted by finance director Suzanna Dieleman earmarks $8 million for crumbling roads, streets and bridges.

Council’s job was aided by a higher than expected Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund grant, which adds nearly $850,000 to revenue.

For the first time in the history of the Chemical Valley, Sarnia will impose a levy on heavy industry of $500,000 next year. The money will pay for shared services, including the Donohue Bridge and emergency warning sirens. The details, including which companies will be taxed, are not yet clear.

Councillors signalled a renewed interest in tackling the infrastructure deficit by approving a new asset management reserve, recommended by staff. The budget includes 2% in dedicated funding to the account annually, to support city assets before they fall apart and must be removed or torn down.

One thing residents didn’t get was the ban lifted on plastic leaf bags . Sarnia’s forced switch to paper bags for yard waste collection is saving $250,000 a year. City Hall was barraged with complaints but the calls dropped significantly as people adapted, staff said.

Other requests that earned council’s blessing include:

* Free menstrual products in 22 public washrooms during a nine-month pilot, starting in January as a cost of just under $29,000.

* Another $90,000 will fund a spray program to control a swelling population of gypsy moths, whose caterpillars stripped many trees of their leaves this summer.

* Some $72,000 for the Sarnia-Lambton Physician Recruitment Task Force.

* Another $100,000 will be banked — with another $100,000 likely in 2021 — to provide paper ballots to voters who disliked phone and computer voting in the 2018 municipal election.

The budget council approved Dec. 3 accounts for 56% of the total residential tax bill. The Lambton County Levy (27%) and school boards (17%) make up the rest.

 

 

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