Council approves 2022 Operating Budget with 5.52 per cent tax increase

(Gazette file photo)



Prince Edward County Council has approved the final tax supported Operating Budget for this term of council. After two and half days of deliberation, the $67 million Operating Budget was approved.

This budget will bring a 5.52 per cent tax increase to the County, or a 3.81 per cent tax increase after assessment growth. In other words, there will be a $33.07 increase on an average assessment of $100,000.

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

“The 2022 operating budget supports the delivery of a wide range of programs and services. Throughout the budget process, members of Council and staff did their utmost to balance the priorities of our community while at the same time addressing areas of significant concern such as the physician shortage and road rehabilitation,” said Mayor Steve Ferguson.

Budget highlights include $150,000 to help attract physicians to the County and the development of a municipal pilot project aimed at alleviating some financial hardship for low-income households.

This new financial relief program is aimed at helping renters and homeowners alike. There are two streams through which residents can apply:

  • Qualifying tenants who pay for water and wastewater services can apply for a credit of up to $250 on their water bill.

  • Qualifying home owners can apply for a credit of up to $500 on their property tax account.

The County Foundation will be administering the pilot program on behalf of the municipality. Funds for the program will come from unspent community grant money in the 2021 municipal operating budget. Intake for the program is expected to open May 15, 2022.

Other highlights include:

  • $843,824 transferred to the reserve to fund road work in future years, with $220,000 of that total coming from higher than expected Municipal Accommodation Tax revenue.

  • $200,000 in additional funding for the maintenance of gravel (loose top) roads.

  • $412,000 toward the redevelopment of Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital in 2022, the latest instalment of the $4.5 million pledge that the municipality made in 2018.

  • $150,000 to support the operations of the Prince Edward County Affordable Housing Corporation.

  • $243,169 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, $15,000 for grants under $5,000)

Before council approved the final operating budget, Councillor Brad Nieman expressed concern about money being thrown at three items: a 1.5 per cent increase to the Capital Sustainability Reserve, roadside sweeping and gravel road rebuilding.

Brad Nieman. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

“The last couple years have been pretty tight. Without the pandemic, it’s always been tight in the County,” said Nieman. “We’ve always had high tax rates but the last couple we kept them low, and people were happy with it. We have right now a 5.52 per cent tax hike. I think when it came to us it was 0.9 per cent.”

Nieman stressed the financial difficulty individuals and businesses have encountered due to the pandemic. In light of the hardships faced by many the last two years, he argued the items in question were not necessary expenditures.

“So staff brought us something to keep us in line with what we had asked for and what the public wanted, because there’s people who have not been able to work; businesses shut down that haven’t been able to reopen until recently. They’re trying to get back on their feet,” Nieman argued. “Do we really need to sweep the side of the road? Is that really going to help us at all? No. I’m never going to support this kind of increase in tax levy because I don’t think it’s justified and I’m almost certain the public twill say the same thing.”

Councillor Janice Maynard suggested that, while there is an increase to the tax levy, there other factors at play that could lessen that burden, for example lack of property assessment since 2020 and the aforementioned Municipal Financial Relief Program.

Councillor Phil Prinzen was in agreement with Nieman and seconded his move to vote on the items in question.

Ultimately, all items up for consideration were voted to stay in the budget.