Lambton County tax increase likely to be in line with inflation

John Innes, director of finance in Lambton, delivers the 2013 budget to Warden Todd Case and council.

John Innes, director of finance in Lambton, delivers the 2013 budget to Warden Todd Case and council.

Lambton County residents are looking at tax increase around the rate of inflation.

John Innes, general manager of finance with the county, introduced the $180.6 million budget recently to county councilors. He says the $5.2 million increase in spending over 2012 will mean an average of a two percent increase in taxes. That works out to about $9 for every $100,000 of assessment.

But it will likely be more than that.

Innes says the 2013 document doesn’t include $276,000 in requests for grants from outside agencies like Lambton Elderly Outreach and the Lambton County Children’s Safety Village. It also doesn’t include $405,000 in projects county councilors hoped to incorporate in the budget.

Innes says that could boost the tax increase to 2.61 percent.

Aside from the grants and special projects, there are a number of things driving up the cost of county government; the largest is $1.15 million in wage increases negotiated with unions. Councilors will also get an increase costing $32,000. There is a $500,000 increase for pensions and $240,000 has been set aside for increasing hydro rates.

One other notable number from the budget – there will be $1.4 million in new debt, partly from covering the costs of the new gallery and also for the debt of The Research Park. “We’re still considered to be at an extremely low level of debt,” says Innes.

Lambton County Warden Todd Case says the draft budget is a good starting point. “It’s getting harder and harder to find cuts in the budget but that doesn’t mean they’re not there to be had,” he says. “At the end of the day, we want a responsible budget that runs the business of the corporation.”

Case notes county staff have put money into reserves, a wise move considering the federal and provincial governments are dealing with deficits and cutting back on funding. “We don’t know what’s going to happen with the federal and provincial government.”

Budget day is March 20.

– Heather Wright