News Local

City passes $29.4 million budget

By Stephen Uhler, The Daily Observer

Pembroke's 2018 budget has been approved.


On Tuesday evening, council voted passed the $29.4 million spending plan for the upcoming year, which kept the residential tax rate increase below one per cent, to 0.93 per cent.

Include the 2.2 per cent increase in the water rates, and the combined tax bill for the average residential household assessed at $183,500, including taxes, water and sewer rates, education, trash and recyclable pick up, works out $4,315, or $69 more than 2017, about a 1.63 per cent overall increase.

Multi-residential properties, assuming eight units, will be paying $26,745 or $157 more than last year, with retail (assessed at $212,500) looking at a bill of $10,269, or $76 more.

The big winner is the city's industrial class, which, thanks to a decision by council to reduce tax ratios, sees a 22.4 per cent tax rate decrease, meaning a property assessed at $184,700 will look at an all-inclusive municipal bill of $10,890, down by $2,004 from 2017.

LeeAnn McIntyre, city treasurer, said the budget process is a collaborative effort between staff and council, and she feels they did fine with this one.

“I think we have achieved a very balanced budget,” she said, noting it has kept taxes and fees down to reasonable levels, and yet the city is going to get a lot of capital work done.

Mayor Michael LeMay said he is pleased with the budget, as is Coun. Les Scott, who noted they held close to the line, but will be able to fix some of the city's roads up, which remains a major task.

Deputy Mayor Ron Gervais said he is mindful of the $20.36 million debt the city is carrying, now that it has added the fire station ($3.1 million) and the McGee lift station ($2 million) debentures to its debt continuity, and urged council to stick to the budget, with any surpluses which may develop over the course of the year being transferred to the capital reserve.

“We have to be realistic on the number of projects we can bite off every year,” he said. “But I do like the mix of shave and pave operations for some of our streets.”

Only Coun. Andrew Plummer voted against the budget. Back in January, he attempted to get more cuts done to it during the last day of budget discussions, but was unsuccessful.

He had singled out the $100,000 set aside in the capital budget to do foundation repointing along the driveway beside City Hall, saying that was too much money to spend for the actual work at hand.

“I think that is way out of line,” Plummer had said at the Jan. 31st meeting, stating he felt this work could be done in-house for less than $1,000. He suggested council cut this item completely.

After some discussion, the finance committee voted to reallocate the $100,000 to be used to evaluate what needs to be done to City Hall, which has been showing its age, and then do something about it, such as replacing some, if not all of the windows.

Plummer voted against that motion, saying he didn't find the $100,000 just to reallocate it, but to cut it entirely from the city's spending plan in order to lessen the impact on ratepayers.

Other notes on the budget:

Describing it as the overall budget's biggest challenge, McIntyre said they have managed to come up with a capital budget of close to $20 million which balances the city's needs with what it could realistically afford.

Of that amount, more than $14 million is going into roads and infrastructure, with $5.78 million of that dedicated to roads and bridges.

The top of those projects is $2.9 million for the reconstruction of Victoria Street, depending on if the city can land some provincial grants to help pay for it. McIntyre said they have learned their application has been rejected, so staff are working on other options.

A shave and pave operation on Mary Street from Trafalgar to Christie for $175,000 will proceed only if the city fails to get a Connecting Link grant for the $775,000 Pembroke Street East/Mackay Street shave and pave project.

Projects scheduled to proceed are Boundary Road – road and storm sewer (Stage One) ($996,708); Dunlop Street from Mackay to Maple ($250,000); $75,000 for design work on the Foster Fraser Bridge on Bennett Street; $30,000 for a railing replacement on the Indian River pedestrian bridge; $200,000 to stabilize the river bank along Moffatt Street; $287,206 for design work on Nelson Street for its eventual reconstruction; and $25,000 to conduct an origin destination study.

Some $600,000 within the operating budget will be used to fix up seven roads – Nelson Street from Cecilia Street to Fraser Lane; Maple Avenue from Pembroke Street East to Esther; Irving Street from Fraser to Broadview; Patricia Avenue from Irving to Herbert; Douglas Street from Boundary Road to Lea Street; Eganville Road from Lair to Boundary Road; and Everett Street from Eganville Road to Norman Street.

Of the rest of the capital budget - $5.75 million is being budgeted on buildings and facilities, with the lion's share of nearly $3 million going to the fire hall, and another $1 million or so for structural work on the Kinsmen Pool. McIntyre said this is being done on the understanding this project will proceed as a shared cost one between other stakeholders and the city.

A report on the state of the pool and the options available plus costings is expected by the spring.

The sewer ($6.25 million) and water capital ($1.4 million) budgets are funded separately from the rest, using the revenue generated by water and sewer fees. The McGee Street Pump Station replacement eats up the biggest piece of sewer capital at nearly $4 million, with Townline Forcemain upgrades coming in at $845,147.

For water capital, the design and replacement of the Crandall Street Watermain takes the biggest chunk of the budget at $575,000.

For the remaining capital, equipment and fleet replacements amounted to $369,000, including $260,000 for a plow truck and a sidewalk unit.

In parks, their capital adds up to $333,800, with the top projects being $80,000 to evaluate and repair the Pembroke Marina's retaining wall, $75,000 for improvements to Waterfront Park, $60,000 to upgrade Riverside Park's ball diamonds, gazebo and the mini-golf, and $53,800 for a new play structure and upgraded tennis courts at Rotary Park. 

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