by Sylene Argent
Essex Council approved the 2017 budget in principal on Monday evening during a special meeting at the Essex Municipal Building.
The budget, in principal, proposes what will work out to be between a 2 and 2.5 percent increase in the General Municipal Tax Levy.
Council and administration met for the first time to go through potential items in the operating and capital budgets on January 30.
After the initial meeting, staff members were directed to go back to the drawing board and chiselled what was nearly six-million dollars in wish list items out of the budget. That amount was needed to be taken out of the budget to reach a 1.5 percent increase.
At Monday’s meeting, Council still had to take $730,000 out to reach that 1.5 percent increase marker. Council looked at the proposed items and further dwindled that number down to around $110,000, which will increase the General Municipal Tax Levy from the originally projected 1.5 percent increase to what will be between 2 and 2.5 percent.
Council approved the changes made on Monday evening, which included reducing the Council Contingency funding significantly. This is a fund Council can use for projects as they come up throughout the year. They did, however, increase the banner pole funding for Harrow from $6900 to $20,000.
Council moved the gazebo for the Essex Municipal Building to the 2018 budget, but put back $4,000 that had been previously taken out for awnings there. Members also took out security cameras and fencing for the parking lot that the OPP had requested for the Harrow detachment.
Police also asked for around $1600 for carpet replacing for the upstairs area. Councillor Randy Voakes said he would like to discuss in the future about using laminate for longevity.
Council gave direction that it would be OK with the roads in the 2017 budget, but removed Craig Beach for $100,000 from the 2017 budget for next year. Councillor Larry Snively wanted to have Ferris Road added back into the budget as he said he has received a lot of complaints about dust on this road.
Public Works will not get a new tractor, that will have to wait until next year, but it will receive a needed mower. Public Works will also not get an additional operator, saving $30,000 in this year’s budget. Councillor Snively noted he was not in favour of adding this position.
Council also decided it would put the staircase at Colchester Harbour for $120,000 and the Harbour Building Conversion to Community Room item for $85,000 to long term financing for five years.
Before the meeting, administration had removed two potential hires from the budget, including a maintenance technician and an assistant mechanic. A generator was also removed from the budget as it was noted it can wait to be placed in the 2018 budget. The Deputy Clerk position remained in the budget.
Councillor Voakes said he would be ok with an around 3 percent increase to get more projects done.
At the initial budget meeting, it was noted in 2017, a one percent tax increase will mean the municipality will be able to garner an additional $140,000.
The Town is now not only reviewing 2017, but is including a five-year plan. Direction for the remaining years will be discussed at a future meeting date.