Sarnia passes budget: No service cuts, tax hike below inflation rate

Sarnia City Hall

Journal Staff

Sarnia council has approved a $162.4-million budget that includes a tax increase of just under 2%.

That adds an additional $18.36 for each $100,000 of assessment on most residential tax bills in the city in 2022. The exceptions are properties not close to Sarnia Transit, which will pay $16.79 more on each $100,000 of assessed value.

The budget contained no cuts to municipal services, and the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic are expected to be offset by senior government funding, CAO Chris Carter said.

During budget deliberations on Tuesday, councillors kept the tax increase below the inflation rate in part by spending $1.6 million that was earmarked for reserves and increasing water and sewer rates 6.85%.

Council approved a capital budget of $49 million, far less than the record $61.8 million that went to roads, sewers and buildings this year.

City staff warned the real price of projects would likely be higher than expected. Material shortages and supply chain disruptions are expected to add to project costs well over October’s 4.7% inflation rate.

A “Fair Wage Policy” that council approved Tuesday will also result in contractors submitting higher bids on projects that go to tender, staff said. Rising construction costs have already resulted in delays in some shoreline protection and roadwork this year, including the reconstruction of Plank Road.

Council did approve two new small sports projects — three beach volleyball courts ($150,000) and a flying disc “golf” course ($25,000).

No firm decisions were made on either an indoor sports and recreation facility, estimated at $25 million, or an expansion of the Bright’s Grove library and art gallery. Council instead asked for more information in staff reports expected early next year.

Just two grant requests were approved: $80,000 to continue physician recruitment efforts, and $1,000 for the Lambton County log cabin restoration fund.

The spending package approved on Dec. 7 accounts for 58% of the total residential tax bill paid by Sarnia residents. The Lambton County Levy (28%) and school boards (14%) make up the rest.