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
The progress came at the sixth session of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Negotiation of a Convention against Corruption in Vienna from 21 July to 9 August. The panel is scheduled to meet again on 22 September to settle several elements of the draft that still need to be elaborated before the treaty is submitted to the UN General Assembly for final approval.”We are very close to an agreement,” said Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the Vienna-based UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). “Indeed, the session achieved major breakthroughs on the most politically sensitive issues: a clear sign that Member States – all of them, rich and poor countries, whether having a history of corruption or not – want this Convention, and they want it very badly.“That gives us grounds for optimism that the negotiations will be successfully completed in September, so the Convention will be presented to the General Assembly this fall, and subsequently to the Ministerial Signing Conference to be held in Merida, Mexico, from 9 to 11 December,” he added.The requirement for Member States to return assets obtained through bribery and embezzlement to the country of origin represents a new fundamental principle in international treaties. In a number of countries, corruption has led to the depletion of national wealth. Some of those countries, whose former dictators have stolen hundreds of millions, or even billions, of dollars, have made a great contribution in the search for new rules, including the Philippines and Nigeria.The agreement on preventive measures includes norms of conduct for public officials, greater transparency based on public access to information on government businesses, and stricter procurement regulations and measures against money laundering.Progress was also made on other outstanding issues, including dual criminality – whether a particular action has to be considered a crime in both countries in order for the latter to cooperate, and differences over the definition of “public official.”Once adopted, the treaty will enhance cooperation between governments and help standardize the way in which individual countries deal with corruption in their national legislation.