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Budget committee OKs 2.94% tax hike for 2022

Budget will be up for ratification Dec. 6 but among the big-ticket items getting the green light was the $17.8M Centennial Drive area improvements
2018-06-06 Orillia City Centre
Orillia City Centre

After five days of meetings, the city’s budget committee has settled on a 2.94 per cent tax increase for 2022.

That figure was approved late Wednesday afternoon during the final day of capital budget talks.

On Dec. 6, council will decide whether to approve an operating budget with a levy of $65,140,755.

The city’s contribution to the County of Simcoe in 2022 will be $6,780,870, which is $59,130 less than in 2021. That decrease is a result of the city pulling more from the capital reserve ($1,182,984) as well as putting $262,146 in provincial COVID-19 relief funding toward that cost.

The police budget is estimated to be $8,691,509, up from $8,503,117 in 2021.

The committee approved Centennial Drive area improvements to the tune of $17.8 million.

Coun. Jay Fallis suggested the city not bury hydro lines as part of the project as a way to save money.

“There’s a big cost-savings potential there,” he said.

If that were to happen, he was told, it would result in a delay because the design process is well underway and would have to be revisited.

“Any delay is going to put the project at risk at this point,” said Ian Sugden, general manager of development and engineering.

Fallis did not receive support from his colleagues for the idea.

Other pricey projects approved for 2022 include West Street reconstruction and widening ($5,844,000), Bayview sewage pumping station upgrades ($3.5 million), fleet replacement ($1,270,000) and water filtration plant chlorine room rehabilitation ($1,180,000).

The West Street project will see the road widened from James Street to Highway 12, taking it from two lanes to three, and the installation of sidewalks and bike lanes on both sides of the road.

Coun. Ralph Cipolla didn’t want that to happen. It is a commercial area, and having three lanes would “create a very serious problem,” he said.

“We could take that $5.8 million and put it somewhere else if we need to for our road resurfacing or sidewalks.”

That comment reminded Coun. Ted Emond of councils past.

“The argument sounds like Clayt French has returned to council,” he said of the former mayor, adding important infrastructure projects were put off under that council.

The city ended up “with a huge, huge backlog of expenditures because we had a number of councils say, ‘Let's put it off for a while. We don’t need to do it today,’” Emond said.

Budget committee approved the project.

At the end of Wednesday’s meeting, there was a capital tax levy surplus of $173,113. Council members voted to transfer that money to the major capital facilities reserve, which has a $27-million deficit.

The decision was made to also put $500,000 from 2 Hunter Valley reserve — no longer needed because the city sold the Nordia property — to the major capital facilities reserve and $286,237 to the land acquisition reserve..

Fallis made a list-ditch pitch to put $50,000 from the 2 Hunter Valley reserve into the affordable housing reserve, but that was voted down.

Keep an eye on OrilliaMatters for further budget coverage.