Brockville tax levy hike trimmed to 2.77%

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A bit more trimming by Aquatarium officials has reduced Brockville’s 2022 tax levy hike by a hair, from 2.84 to 2.77 per cent.

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City council is poised to give final approval Tuesday evening to a 2022 budget package that includes some last-minute adjustments by the Aquatarium board, as well as a new operating plan for city harbour facilities.

City council meets virtually at 6 p.m.

Council members did much of the heavy lifting at an intensive budget session on Feb. 8, when they lowered the proposed tax levy increase from an earlier estimate of 3.02 per cent to 2.84 per cent.

In one of that meeting’s motions, members backed reducing the operating budget for the Aquatarium by $50,000, for a total of $535,000, a figure that includes a budgeted $60,000 worth of in-kind support.

Of that, total, $153,295 is to come from the Municipal Accommodation Tax, while the remaining $381,705 will be on the tax levy.

In her latest report to council, city finance director Lynda Ferguson notes the Aquatarium board of directors has gone a step further, sending the city a letter confirming it will reduce the tourism attraction’s operating budget by $50,000 and also remove its request of $35,000 for capital items.

The latter represents a $25,000 trim, as a $10,000 reduction on the capital side had already been built into the budget plan as of Feb. 8.

That Aquatarium letter, from board chairwoman Mary Jean McFall, also addresses council members’ arguments stressing the need for the Aquatarium to become financially sustainable.

“The Board of Directors will also undertake a strategic planning process to determine what ‘success’ looks like, in terms of financial sustainability and ongoing relevance to the Brockville community and the St. Lawrence Corridor region. For this long-term plan to be successful, we need the City to participate in the process and to support its conclusions,” she writes.

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The moves come as debate over the Aquatarium’s repeated annual requests has sometimes veered close to acrimonious. The $50,000 reduction, however, originated not with an Aquatarium critic but with one of the facility’s strongest supporters, Coun. David Beatty, who called it “a necessary step towards their long-term sustainability.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, council is expected to vote on a financial plan for the Ernie Fox Quay and Tunnel Bay harbour facilities, a plan Ferguson notes “is intended to have minimal effect on the 2022 operating and capital budgets as both operating and capital expenses would be covered in 2022 by the suggested user fees in the report.”

The motion on the docks includes a seasonal user fee of $76 per foot for Brockville marinas for 2022. A separate report on that motion, by Ferguson and director of operations Phil Wood, notes the proposed fee is based on the “comparable municipal markets” of Prescott, Kingston, Gananoque, and South Dundas, but adds municipal marinas are not to be compared to private ones, such as Ivy Lea and Tall Ships Landing, which charge higher fees but provide a higher level of service.

The net tax levy for 2022 now sits at $37,858,870, not including any amendments for the dock financial plan, notes Ferguson. Depending on the method of financing chosen for the docks, the levy increase might even be a bit less.

For a residential property assessed at $250,000, the 2.77-per-cent increase would amount to $65.94, she adds.

For a commercial property assessed at $500,000, the increase would be $256.93.

Rzajac@postmedia.com

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