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  Sarnia Ontario Canada

City needs a lot of work

Tax hikes not a big hit with council members

If it all fell apart tomorrow it would cost $126 million to repair — and that’s just the infrastructure that currently needs replacement.

In a written report presented to city council, Sarnia’s engineering manager Andre Morin said the city needs to beef up its spending on roads, water and sewers — big time.

“It should be realized that without the proper levels of funding to sustain the infrastructure systems, catastrophic failures are inevitable,” Morin wrote.

In order to boost infrastructure spending — and build a reserve fund — the engineering department has recommended a tax increase which would net the city around $2 million a year.

“It should be realized that without the proper levels of funding to sustain the infrastructure systems, catastrophic failures are inevitable.”

– Sarnia’s engineering manager Andre Morin

The department recommended a water increase of 4%, a sewer increase of 1% and a general property tax increase of 2.3%. The report also suggested similar increases be looked at on a yearly basis, until approximately the year 2015.

That means the average ratepayer would pay $30 more a year in water and sewer charges, said city treasurer Dean Anderson, and $17.60 more on a property tax levy, based a $100,000 home.

Coun. Anne Marie Gillis, who is just finishing her first term on council, said it wasn’t a huge shock to hear the cost of what it will cost to fix the city’s infrastructure.

“We knew that it was going to be bad because there’s been so many years of neglect,” Gillis said. “So it didn’t come as a complete surprise.”

She said many municipalities across the country are also facing the same type of problem.

In 2004 council commissioned a study which the engineering report is based on, she said, because it would be better to face the music about what needs to be done.

Gillis said rather than hiking taxes, she would prefer to see council divert some money from reducing the debt to infrastructure. As the debt is paid down, more of that money can be allocated to infrastructure renewal.

Mayor Mike Bradley said the current recommendations “go too far,” although he does agree the city needs a long-term plan for infrastructure development.

Dedicated levy

“I do think the new council needs to look at a dedicated levy,” he said, adding that it would be the same sort of idea as what the city did with paving a few years back.

Bradley said things are in the shape they are in now because of trying to balance tax increases with spending.

“It’s from many years of trying to keep taxes at a reasonable level and not having the funds for the growing demand for infrastructure,” he said.

Looking back, the mayor said it’s hard to be critical of past councils because each has had to temper spending with other factors, including less funding from the two senior levels of government.

Long-serving councillor Jim Foubister agreed that blaming the decisions of past councils is not the way to go.

“I really don’t think there is much value in saying ... all these past councils, did they do the right thing?” he said.

“Yeah, at the time (with the) problems and the situations (that) were presented to those councils of the day, yeah, I think the did the right thing.”

The matter has been put over to the next council, which will deal with it after the municipal election Nov. 13.

DANA BROWN Sarnia Sun 2006 08 24


Date This Page Was Last Up-Dated:  August 26, 2006