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  Sarnia Ontario Canada

Higher city taxes proposed

Sarnians will face hefty tax increases for years to come if city council adopts new recommendations designed to shore up the municipalitys crumbling infrastructure.

A $550,000 study commissioned by the municipality has recommended the amount of money spent maintaining existing infrastructure be increased to $19 million a year, up from the current $5.1 million.

The consulting firm that undertook the probe found the city is already falling behind on maintaining its nearly $1 billion in infrastructure assets, including sewers, waterlines and roads.

According to the findings, the citys current backlog of repairs stands at $126 million.

A drastic deterioration of the asset networks was observed, with the critical being the road network, wrote the citys engineering manager in a report to council.

Andre Morin noted the further infrastructure is allowed to deteriorate, the more prevalent and costly emergency repairs will become.

We can clearly see that the current level of funding is not adequate to sustain the assets into the future.

In order to bring funding levels where they should be, city staff recommends adopting an infrastructure renewal levy that would increase incrementally each year for the next 10 years.

The engineering department is recommending a 2.3 per cent increase to the general property tax levy, a four per cent increase in the water rate and approximately a four per cent increase in the sewer rate.

City treasurer Dean Anderson said that would increase the cost for both the sewer and water for a typical homeowner by $30 a year.

The property tax increase would see a resident with a home valued at $100,000 pay $17.60 more each year, compounded over the next 10 years.

Council decided to put off any decisions until after Novembers municipal election.

Mayor Mike Bradley said maintaining infrastructure is something the public deeply wants us to stay committed to.

Weve been doing a good job in the last couple of years, but we need to be doing more, he said. But, then you have to find out how to finance it.

Bradley said he agrees with the general idea of the recommendations, but said the current proposal is too heavy in costs.

Questioned about putting the issue over until after the election, Bradley said it should be up to the incoming council to make a decision, because it will be their budgets that lead the city over their four-year term.

Coun. John Vollmar, who said he had concerns about the additional taxes being proposed, agreed with the mayor that its an issue for the next council.

Its such a massive undertaking and it needs a very concise look at how it can be done and the ramifications, he said. I think were too close to the election now to give it due diligence.

Vollmar said his biggest concern was the cumulative effect of the increased taxes, which would be in addition to regular increases in the water, sewer and property tax rates.

The cumulative effect could be disastrous, he said. If you look at our budget this year and where it was, say, 10 years ago, were taking millions of dollars more out of this community.

Vollmar said the city should seek other sources of revenue, including help from senior levels of government.

STEPHEN HUEBL The Observer Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Date This Page Was Last Up-Dated:  August 27, 2006