Petrolia taxes proposed to increase 1.5 per cent


Petrolia council plans to pass along a 1.5 per cent tax increase in 2024.

Monday, councillors went through the 52-page document covering the $6,466,823 operating budget and $4,152,227 in capital projects in about four-and-a-half hours.

Chief Administrative Officer and Treasurer Rick Charlebois said the budget included a 1.5 per cent municipal tax increase which will ad about $31 to an average home assessed at $193,000. The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation has not assessed homes since 2016, so the average assessed value is much lower than the current selling prices of homes.

Council questioned several of the projects, however only agreed to one major change to the budget. At the suggestion of Councillor Liz Welsh and Deputy Mayor Joel Field, council delayed building a new entrance sign on the south side of Petrolia along Oil Heritage Road. It would have cost $75,000 according to a staff estimate.

Welsh says during tough economic times, she has a hard time selling the idea of a $75,000 entrance sign. And council agreed.

The town plans to spend $4,152,227 in capital projects, with about $1,761,784 coming from grants.
The south end gateway sign has been planned for nearly a decade. The town built the first sign near the Waterville plant at a cost of $50,000.

Over the years, the request has returned to council, only to be approved and delayed during the course of the year or put off during budget.

Monday, Welsh says this is not the time to spend thousands on a sign.

“A lot of people are still experiencing some troubles with debt,” she said. “I have a hard time selling this to residents – I don’t disagree that we need a sign of some sort. Do we need to spend $75,000 on a sign? $75,000 is a lot of money for a sign.”

She suggested putting up a simpler sign for the time being. “Once you get here we sell ourselves anyway.”

Deputy Mayor Joel Field agreed. “That south west quadrant is going to be developed in the next couple of years and as that’s developed and there’s a lot of activity, it then becomes our front door for a lot of people coming in and out. I think that might be the timing for it.”

The rest of council agreed. Council didn’t use that money to further reduce taxes, instead, it will place the cash in the working capital reserve.

Council also agreed to spend $150,000 to replace the dugouts at three Petrolia ball diamonds in the wake of the collapse of one of the concrete structure over the summer. Two teens who had climbed on top of the building were injured in the incident at Greenwood Park. That dugout has already been replaced with only benches to be installed.

Councillor Ross O’Hara questioned whether the town needed to do all the diamonds in 2024 after hearing that while the dugouts are aging, there is no immediate problems. “It (the collapsed dugout) didn’t just fail and it was vandalized.”

Field bristled at the suggestion saying “that should not be said.

“It was an unfortunate situation where some young people got up onto a dugout, there was no intent that they planned on knocking it down,” Field said.

“This is not an act of vandalism and I think using that word is pretty impactful within the community.”

He added that replacing all the dugouts at one time might bring costs savings to the municipality. And Field said service clubs had already expressed a desire to help pay for the work at the parks.

Councillor Bill Clark says council needs to move ahead on the repairs. “The fact that one failed and they’re all the same vintage, I think it’s responsible to move ahead and get them replaced and if it ends up costing us less because someone comes forward with a contribution then that’s great for us.”

Council also expressed concern about spending $20,000 to study the idea of a boardwalk on Glenview Dr/Tile Yard Road. Welsh suggested the move earlier this year saying it would not need to be a complicated rebuilding of the road and the slopes in the area, but a walkway allowing pedestrians to use the road safely. Neighbours on First Ave have been asking for safety measures in the area for years.

But Councillor Chad Hyatt noted the issue has been studied before and questioned the need for another look. Council asked staff to bring more information back before it approves the spending.

Even before staff explained any of the budget, Mayor Brad Loosley said he was pleased with the document.

“Even though our economy is recovering, there is still much work to do and we need to remain flexible to support our economic recovery,” he said adding he’s hopeful the municipality can take advantage of any federal or provincial grants in the future.

Other items in the capital budget include:

  • $891,156 for washrooms, change rooms, fencing paving and seeding for the Y community recreation project. The town is currently spending $1.3 million to prepare the soccer fields and build a 100-car parking lot.
  • $1,245,000 on repairing Tank Street from the north end of the Petrolia Y to Discovery Line.
  • $35,000 to replace lights at the Farmers’ Market pavilion and wash and stain the cedar ceiling
  • $5,000 to replace the chairs councillors use in the council chambers
  • $11,000 for IT, specifically a firewall device replacement to avoid hackers from gaining access to town information.
  • $180,000 to construct a walking path beneath the Bridgeview Park Bridge. The town is apply for a grant to cover half the costs.
  • $125,000 for sidewalks as recommended in the sidewalk connectivity report
  • $140,000 to replace a public works backhoe
  • $70,000 to replace a parks and recreation pickup with nearly 400,000 kms on it
  • $10,000 for central air for the rehearsal hall beside Victoria Hall.

The $6,466,823 operating budget is a 5.6 per cent increase in spending from 2023. There is a six per cent increase in the expense line for council and boards and includes an extra $7,000 in the salary line for councillors and nearly doubling the amount of money council is able to grant to community causes from $6,150 this year to $14,600 in 2024.

Insurance costs were expected to rise about 15 per cent across the board, but CAO/Treasurer Rick Charlebois said they had just received word that the increase will be more along the lines of nine per cent – $20,000 less than expected.

The cost of policing will go up about $20,000 in 2024. The OPP gives all municipalities their costs for service without opportunity for input.

The cost of garbage collection is up nearly $100,000. That is offset by an expected $100,000 saving when the province officially turns over the cost for recycling to producers in 2024.

The town has also set aside $30,000 to run the transfer station although the budget shows only $6,737 had been spend on the station and leaf collection by the end of October.

It will cost $547,051 to run the arena in 2024 – a $68,610 increase over 2023’s budget. The town anticipates taxpayers will have to contribute $262,751 to run the Greenwood. That’s a 27 per cent increase.

The fire department’s budget is also up 20 per cent, in part as it tries to put away money for a new washroom.

Before the budget session, town council had already passed a three per cent increase in water rates and a three per cent increase in sewage rates.

The public will get a chance to hear about the budget during a public meeting Dec. 11 with council approving the spending plan Jan. 8.