Petrolia councillor says taxes shouldn’t rise because of COVID-19


Petrolia Councillor Marty Souch says its time to take a good hard look at what COVID-19 has cost the town.

And he wants to make sure councillors do as much as they can to keep taxes from increasing to cover the costs.

Souch will ask council Monday to direct staff to examine what COVID-19 has cost the town in lost revenues and come up with a way to reduce costs to overcome a deficit.

“We are faced with the huge revenue loss to the Town of Petrolia, whether it be the arena, the YMCA, the VPP, or sports fields,” he tells The Independent adding all of the revenue generated from those operation has vanished because most sports and recreational programs were shutdown due to COVID-19.

“We need to we need to take and look at each department and I want each department to be responsible for their lost revenue.”

Souch says the need to examine the costs and take another look at how the municipality spends really hit home when Victoria Playhouse Petrolia cancelled its season.

“Then I said, you know what, if the VPP loses money, … somebody’s going to be responsible for it. And who might that be?” While the town shares in the profits made in good years, it also covers all of the deficit in the lean years.

Municipal governments, by law, can’t run a deficit. And they are mandated to create reserves – savings accounts – for future projects. Many administrators say reserves are to be used for a rainy day. And while COVID-19 has unleashed a global economic problem, Souch isn’t convinced the town should be dipping into the reserves now.

“What are we going to do if five years down the road, and the provincial federal government says, we don’t have the funding for you now and we want to do our project?

“We do not want to come back to taxpayers and say, we’re going to increase our taxes, five-and-a half, six per make up for the project when we’re on our way to making it now,” says Souch.

“We have a plan – we have a long term plan, and we need to stick with our plan.”
The councillor has confidence staff can find ways to save money.

“I believe that our staff will go back and look at where are we losing? How much money are we losing? What’s the goal? And I know that they do a good job – but we need to know the dollar. I’m guessing our dollars could be fairly high.”

Souch points out larger municipalities, like Sarnia and Chatham-Kent, have already begun to adjust spending to deal with the economic fallout of COVID-19.

“And I think that if our senior staff can’t go back and create ways of saving, and they may not get to the goal of our losses. Then if we’re in a dire need, then we’re in a crisis, we need to borrow from our reserves, but …council has done a good job, the Town Petrolia has done a good job in building those reserves and we don’t want to squander it.

“We want to hang on to it and exhaust all avenues before we have to touch it,” says Souch.