Council passes $59.8 million budget after four day session

(Gazette file photo)




The 2021 budget has been approved by Prince Edward County council while considering COVID-19 measures to relieve taxpayers of payment burdens. As council wrapped up four days of budget deliberations, several items have been approved for the 2021 budget. The tax levy will increase by 1.47 per cent after assessment growth, according to a press release. On a home assessed at $300,000, a homeowner will pay an estimated $2,745 per year or $228.76 per month.

“With the municipality as well as our residents and businesses continuing to face financial pressures due to COVID-19, the County’s 2021 budget focuses on delivering core services and value for ratepayers,” Mayor Steve Ferguson stated in the press release. “In addition, the budget includes measures that augment the pandemic support programs offered by federal and provincial governments.”

Mayor of Prince Edward County Steve Ferguson. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

In a 12-2 vote Thursday, council approved the $59.8 million operating budget and $9.7 million capital budget. The County Food Hub and Food to Share’s ask to receive $18,850 in funding to support the rental space has been referred to the County Foundation’s grant program, as well as the ROC’s request of $100,000.

Council allocated an additional $20,000 – which was unspent and carried over from the 2020 budget earmarked for food insecurity – to the Food Insecurity Working Group, rising the budget line to $40,000. Within the capital budget, $6.2 million is to be spent on roads and infrastructure, which Mayor Ferguson said council and staff look into further as to services or roads that might need to go.

“We need to take a longer and harder look at how we deal with roads and services,” the Mayor said. “This year was not the year to add to the road reserves.”

The largest infrastructure project lined up for next year is the Picton Main Street rehabilitation from Bridge Street to Spencer Street, totalling $3.1 million. An additional $2.4 million of the roads budget is set aside for road resurfacing, which includes but is not limited to Bethesda Road, County Road 13, Brummell Road (entire road), County Road 7, Clarke Road, Salem Road, Stinson Block Road, Victoria Road, Christian Road (entire road), Cressy Bayside Road, Prinyers Drive and Prinyers Cove.

Budget highlights include the suspension of penalties and interest on unpaid property taxes and water and wastewater bills until Apr. 30. 2021. After which the unpaid taxes and bills would be penalized for the full amount. Council also passed the rate-supported operating budget for water and wastewater services of $8.8 million and the rate-supported capital budget of $6.5 million.

Water and wastewater rates will continue to follow the rate schedule set by Council in 2017, the press release explained.

The municipality will also continue to provide access to large municipal buildings at no cost to not-for profit agencies and public health organizations to host events or activities until at least May 2021.

According to the budget press release and Thursday’s final budget meeting, Council approved the following spending after four days of deliberations:

•$3.1 million for the rehabilitation of Picton Main Street from Bridge Street to Spencer Street. The municipality will cover the cost of the rehabilitation project using Federal Gas Tax funding.

•Council approved staff to create a report on the development of a grant program to assist the most marginalized individuals affected by COVID-19 shutdowns and health restrictions.

•$372,000 for the redevelopment of Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital

•$278,000 for the first phase of the Crystal Palace revitalization

•$365,000 for affordable housing

•Council is moving forward with the build of a $23.6 million water treatment plant and a $27 million wastewater treatment plant. Of the total amount, $4.6 million will be funded in 2021, with completion dates set for 2024.

•$239,947 in total for the three streams of the Municipal Community Grants Program administered by The County Foundation ($189,716 for grants over $5,000; $38,453 for in-kind grants; and, $11,778 for grants under $5,000)

•$1.2 million for the purchase of new vehicles, including 150,000 for land ambulance replacement

•Council approved $13,450 and $11,840 in kind use of municipal facilities for the Prince Edward County Community Care for Senior Association’s Active Living Centre programs, which were pre-approved for 2022 at the same level.

•Council approved $1.1 million for building and lease agreements, including the McFarland home redevelopment at a cost of $500,000.

•Council approved the Shire Hall renovation cost of $300,000.

Final budget documents were to be posted on the County website this week.