Essex approves operating budget, expects 20% decrease in provincial funding

The $10.3-million capital budget will be deliberated at the next council meeting.

Mayor says not knowing about provincial funding is holding town back

Town of Essex council will be deliberating the capital budget Feb. 25. (Town of Essex)

A $42-million operating budget for the Town of Essex has been approved in the first round of deliberations — a budget that mayor Larry Snively calls "very lean."

"We don't know what kind of grants we're going to get this year because of the change in the government. The funding has dried up," said Snively.

The money he's referring to is the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund. In the proposed budget presented to council, it says allocation notices are usually received in December.

But so far the town hasn't heard anything.

"I think we're all in the same boat, all the municipalities. That's what we're waiting for, to see where the cuts are going to be," said Snively. "That's what's holding us back on a lot of things right now."

Results from a Town of Essex survey on what residents would like to see in the budget. There were 136 respondents. (Town of Essex)

The operating budget for 2019 is accounting for a 20 per cent decrease in provincial funding, which Snively said had shaved off some money he would have liked to see in roadwork.

Money allocated for road maintenance this year in Essex is seeing a 11.6 per cent increase. The stormwater management budget is seeing a 34.1 per cent increase.

According to results from a budget survey conducted by the town, the majority of  the136 respondents wanted to see higher spends in those two categories.

The town's director of corporate services said that result "played into" the budget proposal.

"It was kind of reassuring, because it plays into our foundation of asset management ensuring that we're utilizing our assets effectively and replacing them when they're actually needed to be replaced," said Jeff Morrison.

Essex mayor Larry Snively says it's a lean budget because of uncertainty surrounding the provincial funding. (Jason Viau/CBC)

Adoption of the capital budget will have to wait until the next meeting on Feb. 25, where property owners will find out what will happen with their taxes.

If the proposed budget is passed, the average homeowner would pay 2 per cent more in property taxes, according to Morrison.

Projects that are lined up for 2019 in the town include replacing street lighting with LED bulbs and building an accessible ramp for people to get from the park to Colchester Beach.

The proposed capital budget comes to a total of $10.3 million.

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