Pembroke council formally adopts 2020 budget featuring 1.9 per cent levy increase

Pembroke Mayor Mike LeMay address the members of the city's finance committee during budget deliberations on Wednesday, Jan. 22 in council chambers in Pembroke. Anthony Dixon

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Seeking to maintain and upgrade critical city infrastructure while providing core services, Pembroke council formally approved its 2020 budget Tuesday night, Feb. 18. The financial plan features an operating budget of $30.6 million for this year and a capital projects budget of $18.4 million.

To balance the books, council requires a tax levy of $21.1 million. The overall levy increase, which includes not just property tax but also water and sewer and garbage rates is 1.9 per cent. The actual tax rate itself decreased by -0.01 per cent. What brings the levy increase up to the 1.9 per cent, is not the tax rate but increases in the water and sewer rates necessitated by provincial regulations, and aging infrastructure that will need to be replaced in the future.

The owner of an average residential property assessed at $188,000 will see an overall increase this year of $83 over what they paid in 2019. A multi-residential property assessed at $671,000 will see an increase of $257 this year while a commercial property assessed at $213,000 will see a $25 increase. An industrial property assessed at $184,700 will see a $49 increase this year.

The city’s 2020 budget features no change in the tax rates between property classes, no change in garbage and collection and disposal fees and no change in the Ottawa Valley Waste Recovery Centre fee.

Mayor Mike LeMay was pleased with the budget council worked out.

“I think for 2020 we’ve done extremely well,” he said. “We were able to keep the levy at 1.9 per cent, so under the cost of living (increase).

“So overall we’re able to provide the same services that we’ve been providing. We didn’t have to cut anything and I think that’s what’s really important for this year.”

He explained council felt it had to increase the water and sewer rates as it preferred a steady incremental increase to those rates over many years as opposed to hitting tax payers down the road with a sudden, very high increase.

The budget was presented to council by the city’s new treasurer/deputy clerk Angela Lochtie.

Angela Lochtie has joined the City of Pembroke as the treasurer/deputy clerk. She took over the role fully Dec. 31 upon the retirement of treasurer/deputy clerk LeeAnn McIntyre. Submitted photo / jpg, PM

Chairman of the city’s finance committee, Councillor Andrew Plummer, was also pleased with the 2020 budget.

“There’s nothing ever easy about deciding when there’s always more wants than money to go around so I think this council did the best job it could trying to figure out where we best could spend the money and hopefully the ratepayers appreciate the fact there’s a small (levy) increase but I think we’ve really held it to a minimum,” Plummer said.

The City has $18.4 million of capital projects planned for this year plus an additional $600,000 in road resurfacing projects. The financial road map has $2 million being spent on buildings, facilities and parks, $7 million on roads and bridges, $400,000 on fleet and other equipment, $6.1 million on the sewer system and $3.5 million on the water supply system. Some of the bigger projects this year include: $1 million in rehabilitation of the Foster Fraser Bridge on Bennett Street; roughly $1 million on Pembroke Street West from Christie Street to the city limits; $1.4 million in traffic signal upgrades; a final $965,000 on Victoria Street reconstruction; nearly $2 million for phases one and two of digester refurbishment and gas reclamation (sewer system); $2.2 million for forcemain replacement on Townline; and nearly $1 million for phase two of the Muskrat River watermain crossing (Alfred/William).

Operations committee chairman Ron Gervais described the overall budget process this year as running very smoothly.

“It’s always a balancing act when you look at the fact there’s only one ratepayer and we always need to be cognizant of the ratepayer when we’re looking at water and sewer, taxation and so forth, and trying to pull it all together to make the budget work. I like to think from an operations perspective, this budget does that,” Gervais said.

Pembroke had $19 million in reserves and reserve funds at the end of 2019, and is expected to still hold a total of $15.6 million in reserves and reserve funds at the end of 2020. It is because the city has applied for several grants to assist with a number of infrastructure projects this year that it has had to dip into its reserve funds.

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Gervais said tax dollars are being spent wisely and that a number of infrastructure projects will be accomplished this year. He noted the utilization of some reserve funds is what is making this work possible, but cautioned money has to be in the reserves in the first place for it to be able to be used. He reminded councillors of the need to be careful when surpluses do happen in a given year and of the importance of keeping the city’s reserves healthy.

One of the additions to the 2020 budget is a windrow removal pilot project for seniors. $23,854 has been set aside for this trial initiative that will likely be conducted in the winter of 2020-21.

City residents will be paying slightly less for policing in 2020 as the OPP contract cost dropped $41,129 to $4,251,282.

Some city parks will see upgrades this year including tree removal at Pansy Patch Park, new park equipment at the Lea Street Park and roofing of the Rotary Gazebo and minor ball building.

adixon@postmedia.com

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