The County of Prince Edward has given its stamp of approval to the 2024 municipal operating and capital budgets, culminating from detailed discussions held over the course of five days.
Mayor Steve Ferguson conveyed the community’s emphasis on maintaining minimal tax increases while prioritizing crucial areas like infrastructure development.
“We’ve been attentive to the residents’ concerns, striving to keep taxes low while ensuring essential services, particularly in road maintenance,” Ferguson stated. The Council convened intensively throughout the past week, identifying and assessing projects that could be postponed or scrapped, all the while preserving the continuity of services crucial to residents and businesses.
The tax-backed operating budget amounts to $91.5 million, with $50.7 million drawn from taxation. This budget allocation will facilitate a spectrum of essential services encompassing road and bridge maintenance, waste management, law enforcement, recreational programs, emergency services, library provisions, museums, community welfare, and long-term care initiatives.
A 5.4 percent increase in rates has been sanctioned for the budgets financed by municipal taxes. This translates to an approximate additional burden of $56.35 per $100,000 in assessed value.
The 2024 capital budget, totaling $116.1 million, is designated for critical ventures such as road repair, construction, equipment procurement to support infrastructural development, emergency vehicle procurement, and enhancements to several municipal establishments and properties. A notable portion, amounting to $94.7 million, has been allocated for the redevelopment of the long-term care facility, pending additional provincial funding.
Expanding on Municipal Financial Relief, the Council has unanimously endorsed the extension of the program to aid low-income households in Prince Edward County. This year, the program extends greater assistance to those in dire need.
Two streams have been delineated for households earning less than $32,240 (single income) or $64,480 (family income), providing relief for water bills and property taxes. Additionally, households earning less than $20,000 will be eligible for a separate set of relief streams.
Within the scope of roads reconstruction and rehabilitation, a substantial $4.3 million has been allocated in the 2024 capital budget, earmarked for rural roads rehabilitation, aligned with the Council-approved five-year road improvement plan.
Council greenlit a $2 million project for culvert replacements on County Road 49, the initial phase in rejuvenating the road. A portion of the funds will be sourced from Municipal Accommodation Tax funds, with efforts underway to secure additional funds through donations or grants, aiming for a comprehensive $30-million rehabilitation initiative. Discussions persist with higher levels of government for cost-sharing agreements.
Phase 3 of the Picton Main Street reconstruction received approval, with a budget allocation of $7.8 million for road works and $9.7 million for water and wastewater upgrades.
The 2024 budget also earmarks significant allocations for various community initiatives, including healthcare recruitment, support for community groups and activities, community improvement projects, and firefighter training facilities.
Council also ratified water and wastewater budgets totaling $10.6 million and $11.6 million, respectively, emphasizing the majority of the capital budget being debt financed, without additional impact on the rate-supported 2023 operating budget or water rates due to upfront financing agreements.
Looking forward, a Water and Wastewater Rates Community Working Group is set to convene in 2024 to inform and shape water and wastewater rates for the years 2027 to 2031.