Lambton County’s share of property tax bills could climb 3.9 per cent if a draft 2023 budget proposal released on Feb. 15 by county administrators is approved unchanged by county council.
The $265.7-million budget proposal is scheduled to be debated on March 1 by county councilors. They gathered on Feb. 15 for a special meeting to receive their budget binders from county treasurer Larry Palarchio.
A 3.9 per cent increase in county taxes would add $18 for each $100,000 in assessed value for a house in the county, he said.
Palarchio said county administrators faced cost pressures from inflation, higher pension contributions and lingering impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s important that we invest wisely to continue building our county services while maintaining a solid financial position,” and “affordable and competitive” property taxes, he said.
Sarnia County. David Boushy asked the treasurer to bring recommendations to the March 1 meeting about options for cutting $300,000 in spending.
“I think it’s a fair budget,” Warden Kevin Marriott said following the meeting. “It was a lot of work to keep it down to that four per hundred range.”
County taxes make up a portion of property tax bills, along with local municipal and school board taxes.
“I’d like to see if we can’t sharpen our pencils and bring it down a little more,” said Sarnia Coun. Bill Dennis.
“I know they’ve done their best to come in with something reasonable,” he added. “Unfortunately, there are some forces they can’t control given the inflationary pressures that everyone is dealing with.”
Dennis said he would like to see the county tax increase closer to the just less than three per cent increase approved in Sarnia’s budget.
Palarchio said $849,500 would have to be cut from the proposed budget to lower the tax increase by one per cent.
“I’m not shocked by the number,” Lambton Shores Mayor Doug Cook said about the proposed county tax increase.
A three per cent increase “would have been more to my liking,” but “I’m pleased with the way the budget was presented,” Cook said. “We run a very good operation at Lambton County.”
One of the impacts on the proposed tax rate is an $800,000 increase in county funding this year for affordable housing, Palarchio said.
Lambton County has identified a shortfall of 2,450 units in the local stock of affordable housing.
Lambton County provides its 11 member municipalities with a long list of services, including county roads, municipal garbage disposal, libraries, two museums, an art gallery, ambulances, public health services, three long-term care homes, public housing and social services.
It raised its share of the property tax bill by 2.5 per cent in 2022 and 1.75 per cent in 2021.
Property taxes provide the county with 34 per cent of its revenue. The largest share, 46 per cent, comes from the provincial and federal governments, with the balance from reserves, user fees and borrowing.
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