Bruce County concerned over infrastructure deficit

·3 min read

BRUCE COUNTY – The county’s 2022 budget came before council a second time at its Oct. 21 meeting. It became clear during discussion there is still work to be done – not so much on paring back numbers, but on ensuring there is enough funding to get needed infrastructure work done.

Council had expressed concerns about a number of issues during the initial budget meeting, leading to some fine-tuning.

The real estate clerk position had been a contract position that was due to end in June 2022. Staff recommended the position become a full-time one, but some council members hesitated to add to permanent staff. The recommendation that came before council on Oct. 21 was a compromise – a contract position ending December 2022.

Another change was to transit, originally $250,000, up from $50,000. The decision was made to reduce the amount for Grey transit from $100,000 to $50,000.

There were several items that came in too late for the initial budget meeting, but Edward Henley, director of corporate services, told council they wouldn’t “make a significant impact on the budget.”

Since the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) hasn’t yet released its numbers, the levy cannot be finalized, Henley said.

It wasn’t MPAC numbers or cutting back to create a more palatable tax increase, but infrastructure that proved to be council’s main concern.

Bruce County, like many others in the province, has more projects that need doing, than money to do them. For many years the stress was on keeping tax increases to the absolute minimum, which traditionally meant postponing expensive infrastructure work.

“We cannot sustain, year after year, cutting (the budget) for roads and bridges,” said County Coun. Luke Charbonneau, Saugeen Shores.

This year’s transportation and environmental services budget shows a small decrease from last year.

“We should be increasing it; I can’t vote for this budget,” Charbonneau said.

Miguel Pelletier, director of transportation and environmental services, explained that increasing the levy by one per cent every year would “close the gap” (eliminate the infrastructure deficit) in 20 years.

Charbonneau added, “We closed a bridge today (at Invermay); there’ll be more. We should at least maintain (the budget) at 2021 levels.”

County Coun. Steve Hammell, Arran-Elderslie, said this year’s tax increase is 4.8 per cent so far; “I’d be happy if it were 5.8 or 6.8 and put that to transportation. It really bothers me having to borrow $2 million for a bridge.”

County Coun. Gerry Glover, Kincardine, said he agreed with Charbonneau. “Costs are not going to go down. … We’re just kicking the can further down the road.”

Warden Janice Jackson, South Bruce Peninsula, agreed that more money needs to be spent on transportation but said, “I don’t want to increase the levy.” She suggested all other departments try to reduce their budgets so there’s more for transportation.

County Coun. Milt McIver said he didn’t like levy increases but couldn’t see any other way, although an additional two per cent would be “a bit too much.

Charbonneau asked Henley to come back with some numbers that would show the impact of a one per cent increase.

The matter was deferred to Oct. 28.

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times

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