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Sarnia mayor vows to knock down proposed 8 per cent tax hike

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Sarnia City Council will set the city budget on Tuesday, with the proposed tax hike sitting at more than eight per cent.

But the city’s mayor is vowing to knock that down.

“People are suffering out there,” said Mayor Mike Bradley. “And you always have those challenges. But right now you’ve got interest rates, mortgage rates, inflation and a lot of uncertainty in the future of the economy. So to me you batten down the hatches, you do that job and get that down to a reasonable figure that people can accept.”

The proposed operating budget amounts to $181.8 million.

It calls for a property tax hike of 8.18 per cent, which amounts to an additional $76 for every $100,000 of residential assessment.

The draft budget includes capital investments of $51.5 million, including facility and recreation upgrades, road improvements, sewer and water main upgrades, and much more.

It’s the first municipal budget in which the mayor can exercise strong mayor powers under new provincial legislation.

But Bradley said he’s not going there.

“I could have cut that budget by two, four, six per cent. I chose not to. I’m just having the budget go to council and we’ll do what we normally do, which is to cut it down to a reasonable number,” he said. “Not eight per cent.”

Sarnia, Ont. Mayor Mike Bradley is seen at Sarnia City Hall on Nov. 14, 2023. (Bryan Bicknell/CTV News London)

One of the bigger pieces of the budget is for policing. The proposed police budget, endorsed by the Police Services Board, is coming in at $33.4 million, an increase of 9.98 per cent. The bulk of it is eaten up by salaries and benefits.

The proposed police budget addresses repairs to the service’s Christina Street headquarters, increased workloads for officers, inflationary pressures and responsibilities through the Community Safety and Policing Act, expected to come into place next year.

Police Chief Derek Davis said the service is playing catch-up.

“You know the defund movement and these other types of initiatives have really put downward pressure on police budgets and cut a lot of corners,” Davis explained. “Speaking in generalities of course, but some of those proverbial chickens are coming home to roost now and there’s not a lot that as a chief I can do to mitigate that, those are things that we have to deal with.”

Sarnia City Council will meet on Dec. 5 at 9 a.m. to discuss the budget.

“What do we need, and what do we want? This year my voice to the council is going to be very strong about restraint,” said Bradley. 

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