SDG Counties settle on 4.36 per cent tax increase

CORNWALL – A planned residential tax rate increase in SDG Counties will be less than originally thought. A five hour budget session by Counties council on December 6 resulted in a 4.36 per cent tax rate increase rather than the 5.49 per cent increase included in the budget’s first draft.

“I think we are comfortable with the financing of [the budget],” said outgoing SDG Counties warden Tony Fraser during the marathon one-day budget meeting. “There were challenges and there were good discussions and differing views on how we need to manage the taxpayers dollars. The residents of SDG should be quite comfortable that there’s such a competent group in front of me.”

The new tax rate means a residential property owner will pay $26.65 more per $100,000 of property assessment on their 2024 tax bill. That is less than the $33.51 per $100,000 assessed value that in the draft budget.

Council shaved over $625,000 from expenses by tapping reserves and opting out of a few planned projects or reports next year.

Among the largest of those cuts is $42,500 planned for a Business Retention and Expansion report for the Counties’ economic development department, and a planned $60,000 renovation to washrooms at the SDG Historic Jail. The initial budget numbers for Shared Services with the City of Cornwall were also lower by nearly $443,000.

Cuts to the budget did not translate directly to the bottom line however. Council had to decide on $240,000 in donation requests, on top of the $35,000 already committed to in the draft budget.

Council drained a $30,000 donation reserve to fund a $12,000 ask for the SD&G Historical Society, and will contribute $18,000 towards the United Way’s Last Resort Program. The United Way asked for a funding commitment of between $120,000 and $135,000 in 2024. The consensus around the council table was that programs offered by the organzation – while needed – were not a responsibility for municipal government. Council also discussed allocating yearly donations to County Fairs and other initiatives into the Economic Development department in future budgets.

The Eastern Ontario Agri-Food Network ($35,000) and the Glengarry Highland Games ($5,000) will also be funded through the council donations.

Major transportation projects planned for 2024 include replacing the County Road 3 bridge across the South Nation River in Inkerman and a rehabilitation of the CR 18 bridge in Martintown.

For the first time in the 173 year history of SDG Counties, the municipality will borrow over $6 million to fund an $8.8 million reconstruction of CR 22 between Highway 138 and Maxville. The balance of the project will be paid for by reserves set aside already.

Projects planned in South Dundas include patching a section of CR5 west of Winchester Sprints on the South Dundas-North Dundas boundary, and a planning study for an eventual rehabilitation of the CN overpass on CR 31 north of Morrisburg.

Over $1 million in new equipment purchases are in the budget for 2024 including one new snowplow (approved earlier this year), two double cab trucks, two one-ton dump chassis, two long-arm flail (extension) mowers, two pickup trucks, and one new administration vehicle.

The tax rate set by Counties will not be the final tax rate property owners pay. SDG’s tax rate is blended with the tax rates of the six lower-tier municipalities for the final property tax bills. South Dundas will deliberate on its draft budget in mid-January 2024.

A final budget bylaw and tax rate bylaw will come to council in early 2024 for final approval.

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