In its first major decision, Sarnia’s new city council approved a budget last week that will raise property taxes 3.35% this year.
The $145.3-million package packs a $31 increase on every $100,000 of residential property assessment, money that’s used to maintain parks and arenas, police and fire, and roads and transit.
Water and sewer rates are also going up 3.2% and 3.7% respectively.
Mayor Mike Bradley said the tax increase was larger than he’d hoped but added the new council brought good suggestions to the table.
“You want the give and take. It went very well from that point of view,” he said.
“I was hoping for something in the 2% to 2.5% range (but) council was satisfied.”
More expensive garbage and recycling contracts, and rising staff wages and benefits, which consume about 57% of the budget, contributed to the increase.
Council also approved a $29.8-million capital budget to be spent on 36 projects.
* Road repairs – $2 million (same as 2018)
* Sewer upgrades – $7.5 million
* Sewer separation – $2 million
* Donohue Bridge – $1.5 million
* Police radio system – $2.8 million
* Bridges and culverts – $1 million
Another $1.3 million was set aside for an oversized load corridor, to make it easier to move goods from fabricating shops to Sarnia Harbour.
This year’s 3.4% increase in the city portion of the property tax bill compares to an increase of 3.7% last year, 3.2% in 2017 and a 5.3% rise in 2016.
The final tax bill will change once Sarnia’s spending is combined with school and Lambton County taxes, which tend to lower the overall impact
A number of user fee changes also kick in this year.
Getting married in the Japanese Garden at Germain Park will cost $35 an hour, and vendors selling arts and crafts in Centennial Park will pay $125.
It will cost more for tax certificates, building fees and to have public works test your backflow preventer.
However, a parking pass at the Victoria Street parking lot was reduced by 50%
Complicating the Jan. 15 budget deliberation at City Hall was a warning word from the Ontario government that cities should expect lower municipal grants this year.
Because the exact hit isn’t yet known, the budget built in an estimated revenue decrease of $746,000.
“I don’t believe this budget is finalized,” Bradley said. “We’re going to have reopen it at some point and adjust to whatever they end up doing.”