Petrolia likely to turn over Nicol money to scholars again

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The Independent Staff

The Town of Petrolia will once again forego its right to about $12,000 to help local high school students.

Each year, the Nicol Foundation gives out scholarships to LCCVI students who are strong academically and have demonstrated community service at school and in their hometown.

But the fund also provides cash to maintain two historic Petrolia buildings; the town hall and the library.

Last year, the town decided not to accept the cash for repairs to the town hall saying the scholarship fund was low and only two students would become Nicol scholars that year.

Mayor John McCharles championed the idea saying it would be good to give more students a leg up. But there was opposition, most notably from Councillor Ross O’Hara, who argued the fund specifically set aside the money to preserve the historic buildings and it should not be given away. He lost that argument.

The issue came up again during the most recent budget presentation to council. Staff is once again recommending students benefit from the cash meant to maintain Victoria Hall. And O’Hara objected saying it wasn’t even clear if scholars receiving the cash were in need. “I’d much rather see that money going to Victoria Hall,” he said adding the building will need over $90,000 in repairs this year.

O’Hara made the only motion to change the budget, asking for the Nicol money to be put into Victoria Hall. He was the only one in favour of the idea.

McCharles says while Victoria Hall might not benefit from the money from the Nicol Fund, the town benefits when young people get a good start on their education.

The public will get a chance to voice its opinion on where the Nicol money should be spent, or any of the items in the $6.4 million budget Monday. Town Council is holding a public budget meeting to outline what is in the financial plan for 2017. It includes a four percent increase in municipal spending which will translate into a one per cent municipal tax increase or about $3 for $100,000 of assessment.

Staff says if Lambton County holds the line on taxes and the education tax drops again, taxpayers will likely see a tax increase on their total bill of just 0.2 per cent in 2017.

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