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Essex County residents could see a tax hike in the county levy

Updated: Jan 9

The cost of services for Essex County is going up.

On Wednesday, January 10, members of county council will consider the 2024 budget which has an increase of $10,097.770 which will be added to the county levy.

“Despite the uncontrollable external factors, inflationary pressures and operational considerations, administration remains confident that the current increase to the levy is manageable,” says the draft budget submitted by Melissa Ryan, director of financial services/treasurer.

The impact on county residents does not have an exact percentage increase however, as written in the draft budget, 100,000 assessed value in 2023 was $515.71 which rises to $547.31, an increase of $31.60. (It should be noted that this is the county levy and not individual municipalities).

Operating expenditures for Essex County in 2023 was $146,443,460 which rises to $157,169,120 that is an increase of $10,097.770.

“A significant portion of the County level of expenditures are either mandated services or legislated obligations,” says the draft budget.

The budget process began in July and in November, the county’s leadership team decided to add another step which was to foster collaboration and knowledge-sharing among all departments.

“This inclusive process allowed everyone the opportunity to review budgets from all departments facilitating the exchange of ideas.”

The 2024 budget is separated into several different departments including the Sun Parlor Home, EMS, infrastructure and planning, the library board and external commitments.

One significant line that is seeing an increase is the amount which is being set aside in reserves for the New Windsor-Essex Hospital Health System. At $51.2 million, that figure has nearly doubled since 2021.

Waiting list for housing

At the recent Essex County council meeting, the Windsor-Essex Community Housing Corporation presented its annual report.

Chief Tennant Services Officer Nolan Goyette said that the Corporation, which provides housing for 12,000 seniors, children, parents and individuals, is at 96 per cent occupancy and of that, 35 per cent have lived in their current residents for 10 years or more.

Specifically, there are 551 tenants in 479 units in the county. There is a waiting list of 2,728 applicants in the county.

“Interestingly while it does make up 10 percent of our portfolio, the county actually represents less than five percent of our total tenant base,” said Goyette.

The WEHC is the fourth largest social housing provider in the province and Goyette said that the units, including those in Amherstburg, range from bachelor to three-bedroom.

Raise on hold for now

A possible increase in Essex County Council members renumeration will have to wait for a couple of months.

At the recent council meeting held in Essex on December 20, CAO Sandra Zwiers reported back to council her findings in regards to how other counties calculate the pay for their councillors.

A previous motion by Essex Mayor Sherry Bondy asked that a raise of which would amount to 100 percent increase, be looked into. 

Zwiers said that she did an informal investigation into cost commissioning a market study for elected officials. She said that she contacted three consultants who said they could have results between six and eight weeks at a cost no more than $7,000.

“It’s nice to hear that it can be done fairly quickly and at a reasonable cost,” said Zwiers.

Currently, Essex County councillors, which consists of mayors and deputy mayors of each of the seven local municipalities’, are paid an additional amount for sitting at the county level.

They get an added amount of the average local councillor amount times 0.5

That formula was established back in 2008 by a citizen-drive committee. Bondy wants it upped from 0.5 to a full one percent and also have the same amount for alternative county council members.

“I think it’s a great move and it’s market driven,” said Bondy of bringing in a consultant. “It’s long overdue.”

The $7,000 is not in the 2024 budget but Zwiers said it can come out of reserves.

By Fred Groves

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