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The municipal share of an expected increase in levies for taxpayers is one of the lowest starting points recorded since monitoring began in 2016, according to city staff.

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The majority of the estimated four percent increase needed over last year’s budget is attributed to increases required by direct debit and local commissions.

The preliminary budget, which will be presented to city council on Monday, shows the city’s share of the royalty increase to be around 1.87 percent, including the COVID impact of $ 944,700 or 0.76 for hundred. This increase would maintain service levels and past spending approved by City Council.

City staff recommend that city council take the same steps as last year and use $ 944,700 of the tax stabilization fund to help reduce the impact of the levies on taxpayers. Any additional restart money the city receives in 2022 would reduce the required amount of the fiscal stabilization reserve.

If this recommendation is accepted, the municipalities’ share of the levy increase would be reduced to 1.1 percent.

In 2020, the published preliminary figure was slightly lower than 1.01%, which was adjusted to 1.04% at the start of board deliberations, said Shelley Schell, finance commissioner and treasurer.

“City staff have gone to great lengths to get us on the path to low tax increases,” Mayor Christian Provenzano told The Sault Star. “I think it’s one of the smallest increases on the starting side. This must be recognized and the staff must be recognized for their hard work in making it happen. “

What could technically bring the number to its starting or adjusted absolute lowest figure at the start of deliberations would be the inclusion of the revenue the city will receive from the PUC.

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The city is expected to receive additional PUC revenue of around $ 425,000, further reducing the city’s share of the royalty increase to less than 1%, he said.

“It is also important to recognize the PUC board and staff for their innovation which will see this net income flow back to the city,” he said.

PUC’s dividend, or additional income, comes from the investments and income PUC received from out of town, not from local taxpayers, Provenzano said.

“I’m really proud of it. That was the goal of the PUC, to increase the income from its investments elsewhere, and that was the intention of the board and we are getting there.

Subtract the additional PUC dividend from the small increase in the city’s departure levy, bringing the expected point of increase to just under 1% of the municipal portion of the municipal budget. The Board may choose to add elements to the fee, including a much sought-after part-time administrative officer and an additional staff member in the legal department.

But taxpayers will also have to swallow the increases submitted by the levies commissions, which the municipality has no say in the matter.

The District Social Services Administration Board and Algoma Public Health both said their budgets were increasing by more than 2% inflation. Combined with a significant increase in the budget for police service boards of just over 10 percent, the increase in charges to taxpayers is expected to be around 2.85 percent.

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Provenzano said he relates this increase directly to the challenges the city is facing with the opioid crisis and homelessness.

The APH said that due to the focus on the pandemic, other programs have been put on hold and significant waiting lists for a number of its programs need to be addressed.

“We have been saying for years, publicly and on council, and in meetings with our elected provincial and federal officials, that we need more help dealing with mental health and addiction issues. We do not receive this help and it puts a strain on our municipal system and our infrastructure, ”said Provenzano, which, he added, results in a significant increase in the costs of the police and the DSSAB to meet these needs. challenges.

Provenzano said he anticipates these challenges will continue to increase until Sault Ste. Marie gets the health care infrastructure and housing she needs to help vulnerable people in the community.

“Ontario is not supporting municipalities to the extent necessary. It’s that simple, ”said Provenzano.

He criticizes the province for offloading the costs of traditional services to the municipalities. “It is simply not true.”

Provenzano said that with five advisers serving on the DSSAB, it is difficult not to support the final budget submitted as everyone is aware of the community’s needs for these services and the ability of taxpayers to pay for these services.

City council has also received an additional $ 2.6 million in gasoline tax, the majority of which has yet to be allocated. Staff recommend that the money be used for some one-time expense projects.

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Councilors said they would like to see the money used for a playground in the west, the revitalization of the Mike Zuke rink, a downtown streetcar and road repairs.

Provenzano has said he too would like that money to be invested in more road repairs, but also believes a wading pool in the west would be money well spent for families there.

“I walk past Bellevue Park and the paddling pool every day coming home from work and there are always kids, families using this space and I always think it was money well spent,” he said. he declares.

Provenzano said he also believes the time has come to support city staff with additional resources for law enforcement and the legal department.

“We continue to give these employees more work without new staff and I support this type of initiative,” said Provenzano. Additional staff would be added to the tax.

City Council will also be informed of an additional provincial funding envelope which has now been finalized. The city will receive around $ 2 million for three consecutive years and can be used on basic infrastructure, including roads and bridges, an area of ​​the budget that has not been increased for two decades and suffers from more than 1 200 roads considered deficient and in need of reconstruction.

Provenzano said he would also urge city council to use that funding – for the three years – on roads.

“Our council has created awareness and done a lot to support the health and well-being of the community and has improved the quality of life in our community, but we cannot lose sight of the meat and apples of land, such as the importance of maintaining infrastructure and roads. ,” he said.

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Ward 1 councilors Paul Christian and Sandra Hollingsworth drafted a motion asking staff to write a report comparing the capital’s reconstruction and resurfacing spending with that of other northern municipalities. He also requests that the report include measures related to road length, total number of lane kilometers, surface time, lengths of arteries, collectors and local roads, to help frame the results and adjust them. put in context for comparison. He called for the report to be presented to council by June.

The city’s preliminary budget identifies $ 191.9 million in spending, with $ 63 million in revenue. That leaves a municipal tax levy of $ 128.9 million, an increase of about four percent from 2021.

The city council will receive its preliminary budget on Monday and will hear funding requests from its external organizations.

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    Richard V. Johnson