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County Council approves 103 million budget for 2019

by Kyle Reid

Essex County Council unanimously approved a 1.43 percent tax increase in its 2019 budget during last Wednesday night’s regular meeting. The increase will have homeowners in Essex County pay around $13.63 in additional taxes, based on a home value of $200,000.

The $103 million budget supports the planned regional mega-hospital, funds road improvements and an expanding trail network, and provides funding for more affordable housing in Essex County.

Robert Masionville, Chief Administrative Officer for the County of Essex, said the planned mega-hospital, in particular, was a big ticket item which led to the tax increase. $1.2 million will be put in a reserve to fund the new hospital, with the County looking to add nearly $100 million in funding for the hospital over the next eight years.

“A $100 million project, the County of Essex doesn’t do anything that’s $100 million,” Maisonville said. “Over time we do, but that’s one project that we have to fund that really isn’t what we do, but we’re working our way towards that.”

Maisonville added County residents would likely have noticed a decrease in taxes if not for projects like the mega-hospital. However, the CAO also said the County is trying to remain prudent about other issues, such as the increased cost and number of infrastructure projects.

“Based on our operations, if we weren’t talking about external items, we’d actually be at a tax rate decrease,” Maisonville said. “On an annual basis, we are now at about $16-million for roadway expansion and we’re about $12-million for roadway maintenance. The reality is, roads just don’t seem to be lasting as long as they used to.”

Council budgeted more than $30 million for road construction and road rehabilitation projects this year. $2.2 million in shoulder paving projects are also on tap for this year.

Maisonville also noted the 2019 budget places an emphasis on internal staffing improvements, including enhanced training to promote health and safety in the workplace, along with the recruitment and retention of professional staff.

Affordable housing is another long-running issue County Council is currently looking to address. This year, more than $1 million is committed to a five-year capital-project toward affordable housing improvements. Warden Gary McNamara said he was proud the County was addressing the issue of affordable housing in the 2019 budget during Wednesday’s meeting.

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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