Lambton plans more cash for public housing

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County politicians get first look at $264.9 million budget

Lambton County taxpayers could see their tax bills go up 3.9 per cent.

Treasurer Larry Palarchio gave councillors an overview of the $264.9 million budget Wednesday. And one of its features is more money for social housing.

The administration is recommending $2 million be spent on building more affordable housing in Lambton this year – that’s an increase of about $800,000 or one per cent of the proposed tax increase.

Palarchio told local politicians Lambton County needs about 2,450 housing units over the next 10 years. Ideally, he says, the county should be investing about $3.9 million a year to meet that need.

The treasurer pointed out the county is facing the same pressures as other levels of government; higher costs for things like gravel, construction projects and gas to power county vehicles.

And there have been increases in benefits mandated by the province. Palarchio added the county will begin negotiations on contracts for “several” employee groups this year.

And he says the county is “not immune to increase rate increases” noting its anticipating paying an extra $300,000 this year in interest costs.

Overall, operating expenses have increased by $3 million or 3.65 per cent. The county plans to spend about $15 million in capital projects – a half million dollars more than 2022.

Palarchio is also anticipating about $1 million new tax dollars because of new homes in the region.

Warden Kevin Marriott is pleased with the first look at the budget.

“I think it’s pretty fair, because we’re being pressured from two side…the provinces is saying don’t fall into building an inflation increase into your budgets because it’s supposed to be short term,” says the warden.

“And then you’ve got the needs of the community, which we have addressed with the extra $800,000 on the homeless. It would be nice to do more as you’ve seen that deficit on units, but … there’s that fine line between what can you afford and still make a difference?

“I think just under four per cent, so far is pretty fair to the taxpayer.”

Councillors will be doing a deep dive on the budget March 1. There’s already some who are looking for savings. Sarnia City/County Councillor David Boushy asked Palarchio if he had to cut $300,000 out of the budget, where he would start. The treasurer said he’d answer the question during the budget session.

But there also seems to be some support for the budget, particularly for increasing the amount of money the county spends to build affordable housing.

Brooke-Alvinston Mayor David Ferguson says everything he’s study shows “investing money there saves money.”