Pembroke drafts 2018 budget
City treasurer LeeAnn McIntyre (left) and Mayor Mike LeMay peruse the draft 2018 budget for the City of Pembroke.
The City of Pembroke’s draft 2018 budget aims to support industrial development while seeing a minimal increase in residential and commercial tax rates.
On Jan. 25, councillors and city staff gathered engaged in a preliminary budget meeting, as city treasurer LeeAnn McIntyre presented and reviewed the draft documents in detail.
The final tally for the 2018 capital budget hit a grand total of nearly $20 million, leaving a shortfall of $478,520.
“That $19,869,989 is less than 2017's by almost $44,000, so the shortfall is $478,520. If we are going to do anything about that shortfall, either we have to reduce expenses or we have to raise the levy,” said McIntyre.
In order to collect that additional $478,520, the city plans to raise the levy by 2.41 per cent which will see a 1.52 per cent increase in the tax rate – according to the proposed “Alternative A” for the 2018 property tax ratio.
According to McIntyre, that tax rate would only affect residential and commercial owners, while industrial owners would see a significant drop in their tax rates.
“Council is attracted to Alternative A for the 2018 property tax ratio that will drop the tax ratio for the industrial class from 3.4 per cent down to 2.63 per cent which is the upper provincial threshold. So what that means is that it's going to be more attractive for industries that are looking at coming to Pembroke because their taxes would be lower,” said McIntyre. “But if we’re reducing the industrial rate, then there will be an increase in all of the other classes – however the increase to the other classes is very small in this case. It will lead to a minimal 1.52 per cent increase in taxes for residential and commercial owners. So, for a median residential property in Pembroke at $183,500, the tax increase would be a difference of $75 a year.”
Consequently, this tax increase will include a 0.84 net increase in water and sewer fees combined – with a 2.2 per cent increase in water and a zero per cent increase in sewer rates – for a flat rate, customer, the water rate would be an increase of $9 per year. Garbage collection and disposal fees will remain unchanged.
Included in this year’s capital wish list, the city is looking to continue many large projects that began in 2017. Those projects include construction on the new fire hall, continuing structural work on Kinsmen Pool, improving LED street lighting in Downtown Pembroke, continuing improvements and repairs at the Pembroke Memorial Centre (PMC), replacing three storage sheds at their River Road public works facility, replacing the McGee Street Pump Station, making improvements to the Townline Lift Station, and reconstructing Victoria Street among a number of other road and infrastructure projects throughout the city.
McIntyre is optimistic about the capital investments, although some of the projects – including the nearly $3 million budgeted work on Victoria Street – are tentative items that will depend on whether the city receives provincial funding from the Ministry of Infrastructure.
“I think the amount is pretty close to what was budgeted in capital for 2017. We have had a very aggressive capital schedule for at least the last five years which is great,” said McIntyre. “Certainly Victoria Street is something big that's been put off for some time because we didn’t receive grants last year and we're still not definite about whether or not we’ll have the grant this year – but we're optimistic so we're leaving it on there. As well, there’s the completion of the fire station that still has another $4 million in work to be done and we’d like to complete the reconstruction of the McGee Lift Station which is a significant project as well.”
The 2018 operating budget follows along the lines of 2017’s, but also includes several new additions. Among those new initiatives, the city currently has strategic partnerships with Heritage Murals, the Horticultural Society and is looking to form additional partnerships with both the French and English Senior Drop-In Centres along with the Champlain Trail Museum. For the 2018 budget, the Horticultural Society will receive $3,500, Heritage Murals will receive $10,000 the Champlain Trail will receive $15,000, and the senior centres will be presented with $8,400 apiece. As in years past, the city will continue to support the Pembroke Handi-Bus by providing an annual grant in the amount of $25,000 to fund and maintain the much-needed service in the community.
Another new addition to the 2018 budget is $4,900 being set aside for an Employee Assistance Program which will serve to provide PTSD support services to city’s emergency responders.
“For emergency responders, you're required to provide them with training with respect to PTSD according to a new legislation. However, you're also obligated to provide them with assistance,” said McIntyre. “This new program will provide different types of assistance to employees and the employee will deal directly with the insurance carrier as opposed to the employers. So one of the things that's offered is different counselling services to assist emergency workers to try and reduce the incidence of PTSD and reduce the incidence of sick-leave as well. The cost for the city is $5,000 and that would cover all employees of the city.”
City councillors and staff will be meeting on Jan. 31, at 8:30 a.m., to review the budget once more. Thereafter, the final budget will be determined and adopted during a meeting on Feb. 20.
“The fact that we were able to keep the budget a lot closer under the cost of living and yet do a lot of infrastructure work is tremendous. We are able to do a lot of work without really nailing the rate payer with higher taxes, and all of the services will be the same,” said Mayor Mike LeMay. “Overall we are very pleased with the budget and the amount of work that went into it because it's a lot of work for a small treasury department and they did an excellent job.”