Haldimand aims for 2 hike

Haldimand council will attempt to keep residential tax increases in the range of 2 per cent this year when it gathers next month to consider the county’s levy-supported operating budget.Council took an important step toward completion of the 2019 budget process Tuesday when it approved a capital budget for this year in the amount of $30.7 million.The capital budget sets the stage for 300 new tax-supported projects this year.“We’re at a point where, during budget preparations, there aren’t a lot of surprises,” Mayor Ken Hewitt said Wednesday in a news release.“Staff have applied strong financial principles and asset management practices that result in a predictable, flexible and sustainable capital program. By planning for the long-term, we’re in an excellent position to address priorities and respond to community needs.“The numbers and projects outlined in the 2019 budget and the 2019-2028 capital forecast reinforce council’s commitment to making prudent infrastructure investments that result in safe, reliable services for residents.”A key component of Haldimand’s capital plan involves a drive to eliminate all gravel roads by 2025. This is three years earlier than previously reported.As part of its capital deliberations this week, council earmarked a 0.75 per cent increase in the levy this year for Haldimand’s Gravel Road Conversion Program.With a one per cent increase in the levy worth about $640,000, this represents $480,000 in new money to bring all roads up to a tar-and-chip standard or better.Other highlights from this week’s capital budget talks include:$15.7 million towards roadway and active transportation improvements. This will fund initiatives such as paving, road reconstruction, resurfacing, gravel road conversion, pedestrian crosswalk installation, sidewalk and curb replacements, and street lighting. $3.4 million toward community partnership projects and enhancements to parks, trails, arenas, museums and libraries. $2.9 million toward essential equipment such as ambulance and fire apparatus, winter-control vehicles, and fleet-related items. $2 million toward storm sewer and municipal drain improvements and maintenance. $1.7 million toward bridge repairs, bridge rehabilitation and other structural projects such as culvert replacement. $550,000 towards tree conservation and forestry management initiatives. As it stands, Haldimand’s 10-year forecast calls for $224 million in capital spending between now and 2029. This is not a fixed number and can be adjusted as circumstances demand.Haldimand council has set aside three days to transact its levy-supported operating budget. They are April 2, 3 and 4. The sessions begin in the council chamber at the county administration building in Cayuga at 9:30 a.m. and will run till 4:30 p.m. if necessary.Budget talks are public business so anyone interested is welcome to attend. Budget documents can be found on the county website at HaldimandCounty.ca/Financials/Budgets/.MSonnenberg@postmedia.com read more