No tax increase in Petrolia after province gives extra cash

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Splash pad and new park at Greenwood planned for 2022

Petrolia homeowners won’t see their municipal taxes go up this year after all.

Councillor Wade Deighton called for a budget without a tax increase when council first looked at the $7.4 million document. But council turned down the move, voicing concern services would be cut if council didn’t increase taxes by two percent or about $120,000 in 2022.

hat’s despite the fact the CAO/Treasurer, Rick Charlebois, told councillors there would be no need to slash services and that any reduction in the budget would simply mean less money would go into the working capital reserve.

It was established in 2014 and now contains $4 million. The 2022 draft budget planned to deposit another $1.5 million into the reserve – That’s about 20 per cent of the total budget.

Council gave preliminary approval to that budget with a two per cent tax increase. That’s about $24 more for every $100,000 of the assessed value of their homes.

But when it came time for council to finally approve the 2022 budget Monday, Charlebois had found a way to hold the line on taxes as Deighton had originally suggested.

Charlebois told council the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund grant was expected to come in around $250,000. Instead the province turned over about $852,000 for capital projects to the town.

That money can be used for roads, bridges, and water and sewer projects.
The draft budget planned to put aside $1.2 million to help pay for a new water intake at the Petrolia Water Treatment Plant.

It’s a $16 million project. The town is looking for a grant to complete the work. If it is approved, the town would still be responsible for $4 million.

“After quickly analysing our draft 2022 budget given the unexpected increase to our OCIF grant for 2022, I recommended zero per cent municipal tax rate increase to council,” said Charlebois in an email, acknowledging council had not asked for the CAO/Treasurer to make the move.

So Charlebois factored in the extra cash. He was now able to set aside $1.75 million for the replacement of the water intake instead of $1.4 million and spend another $120,000 on other capital projects, eliminating the tax increase.

And Charlebois says the town will also be able to put $1.4 million in that $4 million working capital reserve.

He also told The Independent it is likely the town will have a surplus at the end of 2021 of between $100,000 and $200,000 which will also make its way to the ever growing reserve.

Mayor Brad Loosely was pleased with the revised budget noting a lot of capital projects will be completed because of the plan. “But the bottom line $2.8 million is being spent on capital work (including with the water and sewage plants) in the town of Petrolia, which is great news.”

But not everyone was happy with holding the line on taxes. Councillor Don Welten wanted some kind of tax increase. “I know we got government grants and all that stuff. And I’m not saying two per cent (is needed). But I think we should at least do something in there instead of zero per cent. Looking towards the future, we’ve got a lot of money we have to spend down the road,” he told council Monday.=

Councillor Joel Field also voiced concern. “I don’t like to see the zero (budget increase). And that can be taken wrong – I’ll likely be quoted wrong. But, I also see the projects that we need to do in the next couple of years. And, and I understand where the 2% initially was going to go … we have the intake, we have a lot of infrastructure projects that I just really hope when they do come up, we have enough in those reserves.”
By the end of 2020 – the latest numbers available, the town had a total of $7,992,400 in reserves for various projects.

Also in the budget; there is also about $914,000 set aside to improve parts of Pearl, England, Glenview, Mutual, Kentail, Third and Valentina in 2022. The town uses two grants to offset those costs, reducing the net cost to local taxpayers to $135,000.

The Public Works department has also set aside $100,000 for sidewalk repair and replacement. There is also $40,000 in the budget which had already been approved by council for a consultant to give a blueprint of which sidewalks should be replaced first and where new sidewalks should be built.

Another $75,000 has been set aside in the budget labeled as a donation to the Parents for Parks group. It’s proposing a $300,000 plus accessible playground in Greenwood Park. The group has raised close to $200,000 according to Loosley and asked if the town would consider a grant.

There is also $10,000 in the budget to help prepare the site for the new playground.
The town will be getting a splash pad. The new Petrolia Kiwanis Club offered to finance the project and the town has included it in this years budget.

The 2022 budget also includes $50,000 for a new entrance sign on the south side of town on Oil Heritage Road. Administrators say they will continue to use the steel oil rig at the location but get rid of the dated sign.