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First look at budget shows 9% hike

Expense increases in Town of Fort Erie budget 2012

This chart shows preliminary 2012 spending increases based on inflationary drivers and proposals forwarded by councillors in 2011.

(Oct. 13, 2011) Without lifting a finger, running the town of Fort Erie will cost nearly four percent more in 2012.

But councillors did lift their hands in 2011 for new expenditures to hike spending by nine per cent, and there will likely be more.

Debate at the Sept. 26 council meeting centred on whether town staff should be directed to trim expenditures to limit the increase to 2.9 per cent.

Councillor Bob Steckley said the nine per cent increase could easily increase to 12 per cent when board and committee budgets and community grants are factored in.

“We all know it is harder (for council) to remove items than to add items to the budget,” he said, while asking council to direct staff to make cuts.

Mayor Doug Martin said the increases that were presented were based on council’s direction in last year’s budget and decisions made this year.

Councillor Stephen Passero said Steckley’s motion delegates responsibility to staff to make decisions that councillor should be making.

“I don’t want to be presented with a budget that’s 2.9 per cent and we don’t know what infrastructure was cut to bring that in,” he said.

The single biggest increase is for the reconstruction of the Point Abino Lighthouse with $372,000 from taxes in addition to proceeds from the sale of the dwelling and previously committed reserves to fund the $1.4 million project.

By itself, the lighthouse project adds 1.97 per cent to the town’s expenditures.

Wage and benefit increases amount to $198,000 or 1.58 per cent, depending on the outcome of negotiations on the union contract that expires on Dec. 31.

Electricity, natural gas and fuel costs are expected to increase $150,000. Insurance is going up $68,000.

New spending for parks maintenance will add $75,000, and new regulations requiring drain maintenance to be funded from the general levy will add another $60,000.

Development of a waterfront strategy that sprang from the debate about the Bay Beach condominium project is expected to add $250,000 to the budget.

Other one-time expenses include the Ontario Municipal Board appeal of the Canadian Motor Speedway ($100,000), compliance audits of candidates election finances ($100,000), funding for War of 1812 anniversary events ($200,000).

Also proposed is to increase contributions to reserves for infrastructure (not including water and sewer) by $281,000.

Water bills are another matter. Increased sewer flows caused by heavy rains in the spring and a nearly 10 per cent reduction in water usage will result in a deficit at the end of the year.

Staff estimate a 4.98 per cent increase in water and sewer costs.

Budget meetings start on Nov. 9.

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