Petrolia shaves $40,000 from final budget

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Petrolia council has shaved off about $40,000 from its 2015 budget.

Town council passed the $6.97 million operating and capital budgets at its meeting Monday night making several cuts after a lengthy public meeting last week.

Council won’t get a wage increase in 2015 – it was budgeted to receive up to three per cent more saving $18,000

The town’s administrators also agreed in 2014 to a wage freeze to “advance budgetary goals” according to a report from council.

A new collective agreement has been reached with staff that will see wages go up one per cent in 2015 increasing to a 1.75 percent increase in the fourth year of the contract. The town had budgeted three per cent.

There won’t be a Hotel Study this year. That was slated to cost $20,000 in the hopes of showing an entrepreneur the possibilities to build in Petrolia.

The $1.7 million Backyard Plan for the Oil Heritage District Community Centre has been removed from the capital budget while staff reviews what facilities the community wants.

Council agreed to end its membership in the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, saving $2,300. Councillor Joel Field pointed out the membership for 2015 had already been paid so the savings wouldn’t take effect until 2016.

Those changes shaved off one per cent from the total tax bill That means, Petrolia’s portion of the bill will rise seven per cent this year – including a five per cent Capital Sustainability Levy to pay for road improvements.

The tax increase has been cushioned by reductions in the other parts of the tax bill. Lambton County held the line on its taxes and the amount the province collects for education purposes is down about four per cent.

In the end, the total property tax bill will go up $51 per $100,000 of assessment or $88.23 for the average home in Petrolia, which is assessed at $173,000.

Mayor John McCharles praised staff for putting together a budget, which would plan for the future. And he also questioned why some of the more vocal citizens at the recent budget open house weren’t at council to make sure councillors addressed their concerns.

McCharles says some of the questions at the public meeting were “grandstanding” adding that was unfair to staff which had worked hard on the document.

“I give credit to our staff – there was a lot more thought put into this budget than I ever can remember,” he told council.

“If we follow the plan were looking at a small increase every year and stay with inflation…I think we’re headed in the right direction.”