Council not unanimous in approving 3.55% tax levy hike for 2015


By approving its Part 2 capital budget and the 2015 operating budget Monday, city council authorized a property tax levy of $47,040,822 for this year.

That translates to a 3.55% property tax hike in 2015, up slightly from the 3.48% proposed, yet less than the 3.8% tax levy in 2014.

The slight increase from the proposed budget presented last week to council during a public meeting at the St. Thomas Seniors’ Centre is accounted for in additional grant money doled out by council.

In total, $281,146 was distributed to community groups and social agencies in St. Thomas, much of that sum drawn from working reserves.

That figure does not include $250,000 to St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital for its expansion program as part of the city’s 10-year pledge.

Approval of the budget was not unanimous, as councillors Jeff Kohler and Mark Burgess felt an additional trimming of more than $200,000 could have been achieved.

Coun. Mark Burgess

Coun. Mark Burgess

Burgess sought to make line-by-line cuts to various departments that would have resulted in a savings of $246,000, including $89,650 from the police budget and $13,300 from the fire department.

Both Police Chief Darryl Pinnell and Fire Chief Rob Broadbent confirmed Burgess did not discuss any of the cuts — or implications of those cuts on their departments — prior to Monday’s meeting.

As Pinnell explained to council, his budget is determined by the Police Services Board and any surplus money comes back to the city at the end of the year.

The Talbot Teen Centre saw its $100,000 grant request pared back to $75,000, although that is substantially more than the $25,000 recommended in the proposed budget.

The St. Thomas-Elgin Public Art Centre received $71,000, the Iron Horse Festival was granted $15,000, the Elgin Community Nutrition Partnership (Eat2Learn) was given $10,000.

Council was unanimous in withholding any grant funding to the Elgin Military Museum until clarification of the status of its Project Ojibwa project. The museum had requested $15,000.

And the St. Thomas Cemetery Company saw its request for $59,000 denied in its entirety.

The grant request process, or lack thereof, was questioned by several councillors, including Coun. Mark Tinlin, who called for a complete review of the protocol, considering more than $500,000 is at stake this year.

Additionally, the city will commit $20,000 in its Part 2 capital budget to drainage improvements at Gorman-Rupp field on Edward St. for use by minor football teams.

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