Budget tabled, first draft calls for 2.65% tax increase



By Ron Giofu


The first draft of the 2019 town budget has been put before council and the public with the initial recommendation calling for a 2.65 per cent tax increase.

While that is far from the final number – a public meeting and budget deliberations are still to come – that was the number presented by treasurer Justin Rousseau Monday night. Rousseau added that decreases to the county and school board levy demands would bring that number down to 1.93 per cent, or an additional $78 in taxes to a home valued at $250,000.

The recommended water rate increase is 2.5 per cent and the recommended wastewater rate increase is 1.5 per cent, with Rousseau indicating the combined impact of both rate increase recommendations would amount to an average of $18 per household.

Rousseau added that the two capital levies should also be maintained. He pointed out the town’s infrastructure needs are substantial and that is why the levies are recommended to be included.

“Amherstburg has a high value to infrastructure for residents to enjoy,” he said, adding it also creates the highest burden in terms of eventual replacement.

Amherstburg has the the most invested per capita in terms of infrastructure as opposed to any other Essex County municipality, he noted.

Among the capital budget highlights include $930,000 in police transition costs. Director of corporate services Cheryl Horrobin noted that would be covered by savings from the switchover, the police reserve and a transfer from another reserve that would be paid back in one year.

Potential hires could include a communications officer, an administrative co-ordinator, three part-time general parks labourers, two special events co-ordinators and a human resources co-ordinator.

Rousseau noted that the 2019 capital budget is just shy of $14.5 million, adding that capital spending is up $700,000 from 2018. He noted that all capital projects in 2019 are proposed to be financed without debt with the exception of the Edgewater forcemain.

Capital demands for the year are roughly $38.6 million, he noted, and over $135 million over the next ten years, creating a “significant funding gap that needs to be addressed.”

“Continued progress and planning for the future is key to managing such a monumental task as replacing failing infrastructure with limited funds available,” he said.

There will be a public meeting held on the 2019 budget Feb. 2 at the Libro Centre starting at 1 p.m. Town council is scheduled to deliberate the budget at meetings at town hall Feb. 12 from 6-10 p.m., Feb. 13 from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and, if required, Feb. 14 from 2-8 p.m.

Essex County council approves “progressive and financially responsible” 2019 budget



By Ron Giofu


Essex County Council passed what it describes as “a progressive and financially responsible budget” Wednesday night that the county states supports the proposed new mega-hospital, promotes continued improvements to roads and an expanding trail network, and provides a much-needed boost to the region’s affordable housing stock.

The budget will result in a 1.43 per cent tax increase to the county portion of tax bills, which translates into a $13.63 increase on a home assessed at $200,000.

Warden Gary McNamara thanked administration for its work on the budget during the county’s budget meeting last Wednesday night.

“This is not an exercise that takes four hours to do,” said McNamara. “This is a very prudent budget and a very defensible budget.”

McNamara, also the mayor of Tecumseh, called it “a status quo budget” and he believes both the county and lower tier municipalities are in good financial positions. The warden pointed out the contribution to the county’s $100 million share towards the mega-hospital and the ongoing contributions for capacity expansion.

“We need to ratchet that up to the point where we can add expansion at the times when we need to,” he said of the capacity budget.

Specifically, Essex County council agreed to a 1.5 per cent – or $1.4 million – boost to the capacity expansion budget. More than $30 million in road construction and rehabilitation projects are planned for 2019 while the County-Wide Active Transportation System (CWATS) will see a $100,000 increase in base funding. CWATS will also undertake eight paved shoulder projects around Essex County that will total 12.1-kilometers and cost $2.2 million.

The contribution this year to the mega-hospital in 2019 will be $3.89 million, a boost of $1.2 million. The warden said the hospital funds means the county is “investing in the future” and that the new mega-hospital will “dramatically improve health care for Essex County residents for generations to come.”

Also on the health care front, Essex-Windsor EMS will receive funding to introduce electronic tracking technology to auto-locate equipment in emergency vehicles.

“This budget lays the foundation for future growth and development, positioning the county as an attractive place for businesses to invest and for families to live,” said McNamara. “It is a financially sustainable plan that builds on the county’s excellent credit rating and promotes quality of life issues that matter to residents, like roads, active living and health care.”

The budget also places an emphasis on improved communications, both internal and external, and enhanced training to promote health and safety in the workplace along with the recruitment and retention of professional staff.

McNamara also was happy to see that the county was taking steps to shore up its stock of affordable housing, which is aging and in need of repairs. More than $1 million is being directed toward affordable housing improvements in 2019 as part of a five-year plan to address this pressing regional need.

“We have an obligation as a caring, compassionate community to provide support to those who need it,” said McNamara. “The affordable housing crunch is a province-wide problem, but it is one the county is committed to addressing.”

Essex County is also free of debt, McNamara pointed out, and that he believes they may be the only county in Ontario with a AA+ credit rating. He said they have learned from past councils and ensure residents are well served by the county.

“The county has a great story to tell and we need to continue engaging with residents while fostering a dynamic workplace culture focused on continuous improvement and the delivery of top notch services,” added Essex County CAO Robert Maisonville.


Essex Region Conservation Authority confirms 2018 priorities



The Essex Region Conservation Authority confirmed its priority projects and programs to create a healthier and more sustainable environment for 2018 as it unanimously passed its annual budget Feb. 15.

Initiating a regional Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, improving floodline mapping in response to a changing climate, creating over 100 acres of new habitat including an innovative wetland project and continuing to tackle phosphorus loadings in Lake Erie are just a few of the projects it has planned for the coming year.

“A robust suite of high priority projects and programs to protect and restore the natural environment of the region will be undertaken,” said Richard Wyma, ERCA’s general manager. “These include programs to increase habitat and forest cover, maintain and expand conservation areas and trails, aid our member municipalities in protecting people and infrastructure from the dangers of flooding and erosion particularly in the era of a changing climate, and to provide meaningful education and engagement opportunities for our residents.”

The 2018 budget totals $9,271,600, which includes a proposed levy contribution of $3,148,752. This represents an increase of $101,019, or $0.09 per household.

Of that, $51,000 is allocated for operations, and $50,000 for future asset replacement. ERCA states that this levy funds less than 30 per cent of its operations, placing ERCA in the bottom five of all conservation authorities, and well below the provincial average of approximately 45 per cent.

“ERCA is unlike any other agency, board or commission in that it generates tremendous revenue for the region,” Wyma adds. “Between 2007 and 2017, ERCA received $26.5 million in total levy contributions, and generated $35 million in new outside funding to the region in support of regional environmental programs and projects. This is in addition to the significant value of ERCA’s programs and services it provides to municipalities.”

“The knowledge and skills that ERCA provides is a cost effective way to manage regional environmental priorities,” added ERCA board chair and Amherstburg Councillor Rick Fryer. “Without the technical expertise that ERCA is able to offer from a regional perspective, each municipality would have to fund this expertise on its own. This relatively small contribution is an excellent investment in ensuring that our region is the Place for Life.”

EWSWA finally making progress on 2017 and 2018 budgets


By Ron Giofu


After over a year of going back-and-forth with each other, County of Essex and City of Windsor representatives on the Essex-Windsor Solid Waste Authority (EWSWA) are close to having a budget.

The authority met last Tuesday evening and came to terms on not only a 2018 budget, but a 2017 budget as well. The issue dates back to Dec. 2016 when Essex County council refused to accept a proposed 2017 budget at that time. That refusal caused over a year of meetings and negotiations between the county and the city.

The 2017 budget calls for a zero per cent increase while a two per cent increase is recommended for 2018.

Warden Tom Bain said a surplus for 2017 helped out. Additional revenue, according to a subsequent report in the agenda for last Tuesday’s EWSWA meeting, indicated there was as much as $958,950.

“We’re going to be able to hold the line at zero for 2017 and then the request is to look at a two per cent increase for 2018,” said Bain.

Bain called the budget process “very interesting” and admitted it took longer than they thought it would. However, he was pleased that an agreement has finally been reached.

“I’m pleased that (Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkins) and myself and both of our CAO’s have been able to sit down at the table and thrash this out,” says Bain.

There could be more increases over the next few years, Bain predicted.

“We can’t continue to tap into our reserves,” he said.

The 2017 and 2018 EWSWA budgets will not become finalized until both have been approved by Essex County council and Windsor city council.

Town officially passes 2018 budget



By Ron Giofu


The 2018 budget is now officially passed.

Town council, who had discussed the budget in detail during Nov. 28-29 budget deliberations, formally approved the document with no changes to the previously discussed rates. That means Amherstburg taxpayers will see their taxes go up 2.29 per cent this year, meaning a home assessed at $200,000 will see a $43.29 increase. The tax rate increase itself is 0.83 per cent with the two per cent levies being increased by 0.75 per cent increase.
The increase to the levies will allow for an additional $300,000 to be placed into the town’s reserves for capital infrastructure projects.

When school board and county taxes are factored in, the tax increase would be 1.69 per cent, or $54.31 on a $200,000 home.

Changes to assessments were factored in via a 2.37 per cent within the budget for a growth rate, but individual MPAC assessments could vary depending on homeowner.

Discussion of the budget was limited, with Councillor Leo Meloche questioning some costs pertaining to the Belle Vue property. While $75,000 was inserted as “seed money,” CAO John Miceli said he was confident that the Belle Vue Conservancy had raised enough money to have roof repairs done early in 2018. Meloche said while he would like to see Belle Vue restored, council was told no taxpayer money would be used.

“I want to see this happen but we’ve got to get significant money up front,” said Meloche.

Meloche added he is involved in another capital project and appreciates that raising donations is difficult, but hoped that Belle Vue fundraising efforts aren’t “petering out.”

CAO John Miceli said those efforts are not “petering out” and that the conservancy paid for roof and window evaluations. The windows are the next scheduled project, he said.

Miceli noted that both he and treasurer Justin Rousseau get regular updates from the conservancy and praised the conservancy for taking on “yeoman’s work on behalf of the town.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said the budget passed without much further discussion as the issue had been discussed in detail during deliberations.

“This budget really stood out to me,” he said. “It is an amazing evolution from where we started.”

The budget was very detailed, DiCarlo added, and credited administration for their work.

“Everything is accounted for, everything is explained,” he said. “I can’t see any major changes in how this is presented.”

Residents can refer to the budget should they have questions on anything, he added.

“We do listen, we do act when we can and these are the results that come from it,” said DiCarlo. “We’re better now than we were three years ago.”

Councillor Rick Fryer also praised administration publicly, stating “things went smoothly this year” and that residents appreciate the effort that went into the budget.