Tough decisions ahead for new Sudbury council to avoid huge tax hike
Sudbury's incoming city council has a lot of work to do to limit the next property tax increase to 3.7 per cent.
If councillors don’t find $17.7 million in savings, a tax hike of 9.3 per cent will be required just to maintain existing service levels, according to budget reports.
It all adds up to a lot of heavy lifting for Mayor-elect Paul Lefebvre and the next city council.
"We're going to have to work together on this as a new council moving forward," said Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc.
"The new mayor, Mr. Lefebvre is going to be able to bring a lot to the table."
The challenges include soaring inflation driving up the costs of capital projects, salary and benefit increases ($5.6 million) and a 39 per cent increase in fuel costs (more than $2 million.)
“There will be good discussions, I'm sure," said Ward 6 Coun. Rene Lapierre.
"I’m actually anxious that there will be fresh blood and new eyes around the council table to give us a perspective that maybe we haven't thought of before."
One of the issues they will be dealing with is debt repayment. The city borrowed funds in advance of approved construction projects earlier this year. The interest and principal payments required will come up to another $2 million in 2023.
Leduc said the priority for the budget will come down to affordability.
"We asked for 3.7 budget, so to me that's balanced," he said.
"We're going to have to look at different areas moving forward. My priorities and I heard it loud and clear from my residents, is that they can't afford these high budgets -- 3.7 (per cent) is a high budget, so we have to come in with a more balanced budget and that's going to require growth right around the city."
He said roads are another key issue along with the city's aging population.
"We want to keep our seniors in their homes and the only way we can do that is with growth," Leduc said.
"Growth means new buildings, new jobs and that's what we're going to do. We have to start moving forward, looking to the future and not looking to the past."
Lapierre said he also received a mandate that was loud and clear from his constituents at the doorsteps of Ward 6.
"Better police patrols in the outskirts,” he said.
“I heard that loud and clear. This is my third time and the last two, it was kind of there but not really, but this time it came to the top. We have to work with the police board and Chief (Paul) Pedersen to see how they can help us with that. But again, more officers means more money.”
Lapierre said the other thing he heard was that no one wants to see a reduction in road repair. Constituents told him they'd like to see the side roads and local roads get more of the city's focus.
"And I think the third thing in my area, is the Valley East Twin Pad, when are we going to get that built," he said.
"People were asking is it good, hey were glad to see it's approved but we don't see shovels in the ground yet. Trying to find in the budget how that could work could be a task, but I'm up for it."
Lapierre didn't want to commit to the 3.7 per cent hike yet as a hard, bottom line.
"We have a lot of collective agreements that we can't help," he said. "That alone is a big part of our budget."
Council also approved $1.1 million in funding for the operation of the city's Supervised Consumption Site, in the form of a grant to Public Health Sudbury & Districts.
The report said efforts to get provincial funding for the site have not yet been successful.
Continuing to fund the site would mean a 0.3 per cent tax increase.
CTV News reached out to the Ministry of Health to inquire about the status of provincial funding for the site and received the following response.
"The application for a CTS from Réseau ACCESS Network in Sudbury is currently under review by the ministry. As per the CTS application process, the ministry will be in contact with the applicant once a decision has been made."
Council will receive the budget report at its meeting on Tuesday. It will be the last meeting of the former council before the new one is sworn in at the end of the month.
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