A Petrolia councillor is disappointed councillors aren’t willing to give back grant money to the Nicol Fund.
Council met Oct. 30 to review the 2020 budget. Staff members propose a $7.4 million operating and capital budget which would result in residents paying the same amount of taxes as last year. With the median price of a home in Petrolia at just under $200,000, that means most homeowners will pay over about $3,124 before any increases in the value of their homes.
Councillors took several hours to go through the budget, questioning why money was being spent in certain areas.
Council hopes to encourage people in the downtown to improve their buildings by increasing the Heritage Tax Rebate from 10 per cent to 15 per cent.
Council also turned down a grant request from the Petrolia-Lambton Army Cadets for $3,000 saying they no longer meet in Petrolia.
Council also cut the amount of money it will spend on maintaining the tennis courts by $2,000.
An attempt by Councillor Marty Souch to reduce the amount of money set aside for legal issues to do with the Freedom of Information Act and the Integrity Commissioner from $30,000 to $25,000 also failed.
And Councillor Joel Field failed to sway councillors to turn back two grants given to the town to the LCCVI scholarships. In 2017, the council returned one of the $12,000 grants to be used for scholarships.
When the new council took over, it decided to hold on to both scholarships and use them for maintenance on the library and Victoria Hall as they were meant to do.
Earlier this year, representatives of the foundation asked council to consider what the fund was set up for – scholarships. In the last few years, only two scholarships have been awarded because there is little revenue being made to sustain the fund.
Field was one of the few who spoke in favour of returning the grant to boost the number of scholarships. He tried again Wednesday to have the town give up the cash so there could be more scholarships.
“This year we (the town) got 66 per cent of the money (from its grants),” he says. “I thought that this would revive it a bit … it could give a boost to the scholarship and get the excitement back in the school.”
In turn, he hoped the foundation would find a way to raise some cash to put the Nicol Foundation in a better financial place. But not one councillor who agreed.
“I’m disappointed and if there is another opportunity to bring it up again, I will…I thought it would bring a good boost to the scholarship.”
Council approved a motion which called on the foundation to come to the town with a plan to improve finances before it considers the idea again.
A public meeting will be held on the budget Nov. 12.
Some of the highlights in the budget include;
• over $10 million in reserves, including $375,250 for capital at Victoria Playhouse
• $1.3 million in general administration spending
•$1.114 million on public works
• $1.119 million protective services including policing by the OPP
• $782,250 for a new ladder truck for the fire department
• $817,000 for Parks and Recreation including the arena, community events and $142,000 for marketing the town
• Petrolia plans to spend $100,000 on engineering for changes to Victoria Hall
• A 2.4 per cent increase in both water and sewer charges.
• $63,000 to set up a new transfer center on Maude St.